The Midwest continues to grow as a meetings destination, with new hotels, resorts, and convention centers adding to an already diverse product offering. In particular, there's a boom in new and expanded convention centers.
Chicago is looking forward to the completion of the McCormick Place West Building in 2007 — eight months earlier than originally projected. It will offer 470,000 square feet of exhibit space and 250,000 square feet of meeting room space. Next door, in Schaumburg, Ill., the Schaumburg Convention Center opened for business in July. It includes a 100,000-square-foot exhibit hall, a 28,000-square-foot ballroom, and 20,000 square feet of meeting space. Coming in phase two is a 2,400-seat theater.
Cincinnati's Cinergy Center remained open during its $160 million renovation, which was completed in May. The 750,000-square-foot center features nearly 200,000 square feet of exhibition space and more than 100,000 square feet of meeting space — including a 40,000-square-foot ballroom. Meanwhile, the Kansas City Convention Center will complete a $74 million, 135,000-square-foot expansion and renovation by this fall. The expansion will add a 40,000-square-foot ballroom and 35,000 square feet of pre-function space.
Traveling to the Midwest has never been easier. Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport completed a runway expansion in fall 2005, and Cleveland Hopkins International Airport is finishing its $1.6 billion expansion. In Michigan, Lansing's Capital City Airport now has direct flights to Atlanta, Las Vegas, and Orlando, while Traverse City features seasonal nonstop flights to New York, Cincinnati and Dallas/Fort Worth.
The 305-room Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel Chicago will be undergoing full guest room renovations in 2007.
The 246-room Four Points by Sheraton Chicago Downtown Magnificent Mile opened in June 2005 with 3,000 square feet of meeting space.
The 362-room all-suite Renaissance Chicago O'Hare Hotel opened in February 2005. The hotel has more than 21,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 5,000-square-foot ballroom.
Crowne Plaza Hotel Chicago — Metro opened in July 2005 in the West Loop near the Sears Tower. The 398-room hotel features more than 8,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space.
In the Chicago Southland area, the Hilton Garden Inn — Tinley Park opened in March 2005. The 137-room facility has 1,700 square feet of meeting space, including a 15-seat boardroom.
In spring 2005, the 312-room Hyatt Lisle expanded its meeting space and now has 20 meeting rooms, a 4,140-square-foot ballroom, and a 2,100-square-foot outdoor pavilion.
The 243-room Conrad Hotel Indianapolis opened this April with more than 10,000 square feet of meeting space. It is connected to the Indiana Convention Center & RCA Dome.
Lucas Oil Products has won the naming rights for the new Indiana stadium under construction in downtown Indianapolis. When completed in fall 2008, Lucas Oil Stadium will be a multi-use building, replacing the RCA Dome, with 63,000 permanent seats, expandable to 70,000. The stadium's floor will offer 100,000 gross square feet of exhibit space with an additional 50,000 gross square feet in an adjoining exhibit hall.
Grand Wayne Convention Center in Fort Wayne recently completed an expansion, adding a 30-foot-tall wall of windows that stretches the length of a city block. There are individually climate-controlled meeting rooms and a 12,000-square-foot kitchen that can serve 3,000 in a single seating. The center has 80,000 square feet of dedicated meeting space and 30,000 square feet of public areas and is attached to a Hilton hotel.
The 407-room Adam's Mark Indianapolis is just a quarter mile from Indianapolis International Airport. It features 35,400 square feet of meeting and exhibit space, including three large ballrooms and 19 breakout rooms. Wireless Internet is available in the restaurant, lobby, and lounge.
The 118-room Inn at St. John's opened earlier this year in Plymouth with 25 meeting rooms, including a ballroom.
The $220 million DeVos Place convention center was completed in February 2005 in Grand Rapids. Its has 35,000 square feet of meeting space, a 162,000-square-foot exhibition hall, and a 40,000-square-foot ballroom. Construction is under way on a connected 340-room JW Marriott, slated for completion in 2007.
A 214-room Westin hotel is scheduled to open in Minneapolis in 2007 with 8,000 square feet of meeting space.
Ground has been broken on a 136-room Ivy Hotel + Residences near the Minneapolis Convention Center. Completion is set for spring 2007.
InterContinental Hotels Group opened the 479-room, 21-story Crowne Plaza St. Paul Riverfront in March. It has 55,000 square feet of meeting space, including three ballrooms and 12 meeting rooms.
In downtown Minneapolis, the 324-room Millennium Hotel Minneapolis is connected by enclosed skyway to the Minneapolis Convention Center. The hotel features 20,000 square feet of flexible meeting space.
A 200-room Four Seasons hotel and spa is scheduled for completion in 2007 in St. Louis. It will connect to the Pinnacle casino on Laclede's Landing.
Earlier this year, the 672-room St. Louis Marriott Downtown became the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark. A $15 million renovation included meeting space. The hotel overlooks the new Busch Stadium, which opened in April.
The 195-room Hilton St. Louis Downtown opened in the 112-year-old Merchants-Laclede bank building in 2005. It features 5,000 square feet of meeting space in 75 rooms.
Just a block from the Gateway Arch, the 780-room Millennium Hotel St. Louis features 65,000 square feet of meeting and event space — all on one level.
The 39-acre, 404-room Great Wolf Lodge resort is scheduled for completion late this year north of Cincinnati in Mason. Features will include a 40,000-square-foot conference center, a 75,000-square-foot indoor waterpark, and a spa.
The 256-room Sheraton Cincinnati North Hotel opened last fall across from the Sharonville Convention Center. It features more than 18,000 square feet of meeting space, including a ballroom.
In downtown Cincinnati, the 872-room Millennium Hotel Cincinnati features 27,000 square feet of meeting, banquet, and exhibit space.
The 295-room Cleveland Marriott East was completed in fall 2005. The facility has nearly 15,000 square feet of flexible meeting and convention space.
The 596-room Kalahari Waterpark Resort — Sandusky will open its meeting and convention facility, the Nia Center, this month. The center features 95,000 square of meeting space accommodating up to 2,000 attendees.
Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells features 740 African-themed guest rooms and suites. Everything — except for its well-known water park — is under one roof: fitness center, spa, shopping, dining, and the 100,000-square-foot convention center, the largest convention center in the state. In 2006, Kalahari purchased Trappers Turn Golf Club, one of Wisconsin's top-ranked courses.
Ask the CVB
Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau
(312) 567-8500; www.choosechicago.com
Total Hotel Tax: 14.9%
Chicago Southland CVB
Total Hotel Tax: Averages 10%
(800) 733-9811; (630) 769-1000
Total Hotel Tax: 11%
Rosemont Convention Bureau
(847) 823-2100; www.rosemont.com
Total Hotel Tax: 12.5%
Fort Wayne CVB
(800) 767-7752; (260) 424-3700
www.indy.org; Total Hotel Tax: 12%
(317) 639-4282; Fax: (317) 639-5273
www.indy.org; Total Hotel Tax: 15%
Detroit Metro CVB
(888) CALL-DTW; www.visitdetroit.com
Total Hotel Tax: 13% to 15%
Grand Rapids/Kent County CVB
(800) 678-9859; Total Hotel Tax: 13%
Greater Minneapolis CVA
Total Hotel Tax: 13%
Saint Paul CVB
(800) 627-6101; www.visitsaintpaul.com
Total Hotel Tax: 13%
St. Louis Conv. & Visitors Commission
(800) 597-8409; www.explorestlouis.com
Total Hotel Tax: 14.8%
Greater Cincinnati CVB
(800) 543-2613; www.cincymeetings.com
Total Hotel Tax: 17%
CVB of Greater Cleveland
(800) 321-1001 www.travelcleveland.com
Total Hotel Tax: 15.5%
Total Hotel Tax: 16.25%
Total Hotel Tax: 14.6%
You can park downtown in Cincinnati for $1 — if you know where to look. The $1 rate is good for designated garages when you park after 5 p.m. on weekdays and weekends. Visit www.gototown.com for locations.
In Indianapolis, visitors can explore downtown free via IndyGo's (public transportation) Blue Line Circulator. The route goes from White River State Park to the City Market. Attractions include the Indiana Convention Center & RCA Dome, Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, and Circle Centre mall.
When driving into the Chicago area from the east, allow extra time. Work is still under way on the massive interstate reconstruction project at the Illinois/Indiana state line on I-80/94.
If you're staying in greater Chicago and using the Metra commuter line, arrange transportation to and from your suburban train station. Check with your hotel, which may offer a complimentary shuttle. Otherwise, you'll likely have to rely on taxi service.
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