Let's face it. For groups planning a national meeting, airport hassle deters attendance. The convention centers know this and McCormick Place and the Donald E. Stephens Center in Rosemont recently installed flight screens that provide attendees with up-to-the-minute information. This is not the FAA-regulated schedule information, but information on real-time delays caused by air traffic control, aircraft maintenance, crew availability, and weather. It's no panacea, but having “glance and go” information available in the convention center does cut down on airport time and anxiety.
All that gilt, silk, and crystal, and the “name” designers, decorators, and chefs trooping into town means only one thing: Chicago is getting her “glam” on, opening opulent new hotels that are oases for upscale guests, champagne receptions, and top-drawer parties and events. Grouped around the Magnificent Mile, these palaces range from the historic to the ultramodern.
One of the spring's biggest stories was the reopening in March of Chicago's 98-year-old Blackstone hotel at 636 South Michigan Avenue after a three-year, $128 million restoration. They recreated the landmark while keeping most of its original architecture intact. The Blackstone is again a social center for the city, with 11,000 square feet of magnificently preserved event space. The hotel features 332 lavish guest rooms and suites (among them the fabled Presidential Suite and the Smoke-filled Room), 19,670 square feet of meeting space, a health club, and a business center.
In contrast to the Blackstone, the Magnificent Mile welcomed an ultramodern hotel this spring. The Avenue, a contemporary urban oasis, offers modern luxury and the ultimate in technological amenities. The Avenue offers 350 guest accommodations and more than 18,000 square feet of function space.
The floods this summer have taken a toll, but the Midwest is coming back fast. Wisconsin Dells CVB wants planners to know that although the area was affected, all resorts, restaurants, and waterparks are 100 percent now. It has more than 8,000 guest rooms and all its meeting venues up and running, even Chula Vista Resort near Lake Delton has been all dried out since the lake burst through its banks into the Wisconsin River. The Chula Vista's new Wisconsin Dells Center offers space for sporting events and trade shows of all sizes, including 27 meeting rooms.
The former IBM Building at 330 N. Wabash is about to become a hotel. LaSalle Hotel Properties will create 335 rooms that showcase five-fixture bathrooms on floors two through 13 in the yet-unnamed “five-star, super-luxe hotel” and will offer 17,000 square feet of space for meetings and social events.
Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago, which opened in January, has already been Hot-Listed by the editors of Condé Nast Traveler in the May 2008 issue. The 339 luxury guest rooms on Wabash Avenue comprise floors 14 through 27 of a 92-story residential tower and include Sixteen, a fine-dining restaurant, meeting and event space, the Trump Health Club, the Spa at Trump, and later in the year, 53 spa guest rooms.
Last September, La Quinta Inns & Suites broke ground on a hotel in the Financial District. La Quinta Inn & Suites — Chicago Downtown will have 241 guest rooms, two meeting rooms, and a business center when it opens late this year.
This summer Chartres Lodging Group will reopen the old Chicago City Centre Hotel & Sports Club, newly transformed into the 500-room Doubletree Chicago Magnificent Mile. It will have 17,000 square feet of meeting space.
Hard Rock Hotel Chicago completed a $106 million renovation. The hotel has 381 rooms, 20 suites, and conference facilities for up to 400 guests.
InterContinental Chicago O'Hare will open in October near the airport in Rosemont with 556 guest rooms and 70 suites, as well as 53,000 square-feet of meeting and event space.
A 200-room Courtyard by Marriott with two office buildings is planned near the new Inter-Continental hotel (see item above). Construction is expected to be finished by spring 2010.
The 369-room Doubletree Hotel Chicago-O'Hare Rosemont, across from the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, has been purchased by the Dow Hotel Co. and will undergo a multimillion-dollar renovation.
In Chicago Southland, Hickory Creek Resort in 2009 will open a 105-room themed hotel; a 120-room extended-stay hotel; 94,500 square feet of mixed-use office, meeting, and commercial space; an indoor water park; and more.
A multimillion-dollar redevelopment has restored the Doubletree Hotel & Conference Center Chicago-North Shore in Skokie. The 369-room hotel has more than 22,000 square feet of redesigned, IACC-certified meeting space.
Starwood opened the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center just outside Chicago in Lombard, Ill. The hotel offers 500 guest rooms and 39,000 square feet of meeting and event space.
In Tinley Park, a 35-minute drive from Chicago, the 202-room Holiday Inn Select & Convention Center is considering an expansion of its 40,000-square-foot convention center. Plans would more than double that space.
The 497-room Hyatt Regency Indianapolis unveiled a $13 million renovation in November. Changes include new meeting space, bringing the total to 30,000 square feet.
Sheraton Indianapolis City Centre has had several enhancements and renovated 378 guest rooms, including 45 suites.
With 202 rooms within a few blocks of the convention hall, the Clarion Downtown Fort Wayne is undergoing renovation.
Construction began last year on a $30 million, 175-room Embassy Suites Hotel to be connected to the Earle Brown Conference Center in Heritage Center near Minneapolis. The hotel is expected to be complete in spring 2009.
In place of the Midland Bank Building comes the Hotel Minneapolis. The building will be transformed by August 1 into a 224-room hotel, restaurant, and conference center that will host meetings for up to 230 attendees.
Plans for expanding the Mall of America, Bloomington, include a $40 million, 202-room Kimpton hotel. Construction should be complete this summer.
In November 2007, the Hotel Pontchartrain became the Sheraton Detroit Riverside. Renovated in a two-year, $35 million makeover, it offers 367 guest rooms and eight meeting rooms.
The 235-room Ann Arbor Marriott Ypsilanti at Eagle Crest completed a multimillion-dollar renovation. Guest rooms, two ballrooms, and 30 meeting rooms accounting for 30,000 square feet of meeting space were renovated.
The reflagged Wyndham Milwaukee Airport Hotel and Convention Center will undergo a two-year renovation of its guest rooms and meeting space.
Kalahari Waterpark Resort and Convention Center in Wisconsin Dells now has 26 meeting rooms and a 17,000-spuare-foot ballroom, a total of 100,000 square feet of event and conference space. In addition to the resort's several hundred variable suites, consider six new five-bedroom townhouse units for a small meeting.
The 483-room Hyatt Regency Milwaukee, connected via skyway to the Midwest Airlines Center and adjacent to the Bradley Center, U.S. Cellular Arena, and the Milwaukee Theater, will undergo an $18 million renovation.
The Abbey Resort on Lake Geneva has undergone refurbishment in the past two years of its 334 guest rooms and suites and more than 40,000 square feet of meeting and event space.
Ask the CVB
Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau
Rosemont Convention Bureau
Tinley Park Chamber of Commerce
Detroit Metro CVB
Grand Rapids/Kent County CVB
Greater Minneapolis CVA
Saint Paul CVB
Greater Columbus CVB
(800) 354-2657; www.ExperienceColumbus.com
CVB of Greater Cleveland
(800) 321-1001; www.positivelycleveland.com
Greater Cincinnati CVB
Greater Milwaukee CVB
Wisconsin Dells VCB
In Milwaukee, the Harley-Davidson Museum celebrated its grand opening this July. The museum can accommodate 20 to 1,050 guests indoors and up to 15,000 people outdoors. Meals can be as memorable as a “Road King Breakfast” with all the fixings, “Brake Out” afternoon snacks of penny candy and root beer floats, or a New York strip steak dinner. (877) 736-8738; www.harley-davidson.com/wcm/Content/Pages/HD_Museum/
In Lisle, Ill., the 1,700-acre Morton Arboretum is both a park and an outdoor museum of woodlands, wetlands, and gardens. The arboretum is open 365 days a year, and attractions include the four-acre Children's Garden, the Maze Garden, the Schulenberg Prairie, and the Fragrance Garden. The new Visitor Center houses the Gingko Room and Restaurant, a couple of meeting rooms, and a gift shop. (630) 968-0074; email@example.com
In 2006, an addition to the beautiful Minneapolis Institute of Arts created additional spaces for groups to meet. Graves Reception Hall, with soaring maple panels and a barrel-vaulted ceiling, can host up to 350 people. The Pillsbury Auditorium can seat 250 theater-style. For a smaller group, the Wells Fargo Community Room with its banks of windows brings the outdoors in. (612) 870-3049; firstname.lastname@example.org