There's no shortage of cities, big and small, in the Midwest that offer great space for groups.

Built on 24 acres in the heart of Chicago, Millennium Park includes the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, the Jay Pritzker outdoor performing arts pavilion, indoor year-round theater, restaurant, skating rink, and gardens.

Also in Chicago, the Mills Co. broke ground in 2005 for the first phase of the 108 North State Street Project, which will include retail, dining, entertainment, a hotel, an office tower, and transit station. The goal is to open in late 2008.

In May, Rosemont Mayor Donald E. Stephens unveiled the master plan for Rosemont Walk, a 60-acre, $500 million mixed-use development built around the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center and Rosemont Theatre. Phase one includes Grizzly Falls Resort, a waterpark and 400-room resort; a 525-room Le Meridien hotel; and a 22-screen megaplex.

Indianapolis' new Lucas Oil Stadium is scheduled to open in summer 2008 connected to the Indiana Convention Center, hotels, and the Circle Center Mall. The RCA Dome will be torn down.

And the Indianapolis Airport is constructing a new terminal, scheduled to be finished in late 2008.

Meanwhile, the expansion of the Indiana Convention Center is expected to open in late 2010, nearly doubling the city's exhibit space to about 550,000 square feet.

Cleveland is looking at building a new convention center. Possibilities include expanding the existing center or new construction along the Cuyahoga River. Along Lake Erie, Cleveland is redeveloping eight miles of freeway into a tree-lined boulevard, including a trolley museum and retail shops.

In Michigan, Detroit International Riverfront, a $500 million development to restore green space, is under way along the Detroit River. Three parks, the RenCen, and Cobo Hall will be connected by bike and jogging trails.

The Midwest/Facilities Update

Illinois

In July, McCormick Place completed its West building, adding 700,000 square feet of meeting and exhibition space. The three campus buildings have a total of 2.2 million square feet of exhibit space, making it the nation's largest convention center.

The 1910 Blackstone Hotel, a Chicago landmark on South Michigan Avenue, has undergone a $112 million renovation. Next summer, the hotel will open as a Marriott Renaissance with 330 guest rooms and renovated meeting rooms.

The 411-room Westin Chicago North Shore opened last October, 16 miles north of O'Hare with 35,000 square feet of meeting space.

Trump International Hotel & Tower is being built on the Chicago River and will include 286 rooms.

The Millennium Knickerbocker has undergone a $20 million renovation that included its ballroom, 14 meeting rooms, and 305 guest rooms.

Renaissance Hotels & Resorts and the Village of Schaumburg opened the $224 million Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel & Convention Center in 2006. The hotel has 500 guest rooms.

Gemstone Hotels & Resorts will transform the Chicago House of Blues hotel into the Hotel Sax Chicago to the tune of $17 million. The project includes a complete renovation of all 353 guest rooms and an increased 10,000 square feet of function space.

The Hyatt Regency O'Hare celebrated its grand reopening in Rosemont last May after a $60 million transformation that included its 110,000 square feet of meeting space. Its 1,100 guest rooms are still being updated.

Indiana

French Lick Resort, a $382 million historic restoration and development project, opened last November. It includes French Lick Springs Hotel and the West Baden Springs Hotel. The resort has 693 guest rooms and suites; 36,000 square feet of meeting space; and 45 holes of golf.

The $325 million JW Marriott Complex in Indianapolis will include a total of 1,568 rooms, with 1,000 rooms in the JW Marriott; 250 rooms in the Courtyard by Marriott; 168 rooms in the Fairfield Inn & Suites; and 150 rooms in the SpringHill Suites. The complex will have 110,000 square feet of meeting space. Construction begins this fall for a 2010 planned completion.

Michigan

A JW Marriott Grand Rapids is under construction. It will have 340 guest rooms and 20,000 square feet of meeting and event space and will be within a couple of blocks of Grand Rapids' new DeVos Place convention center.

The Radisson Plaza Hotel & Suites, in downtown Kalamazoo close to the Civic Auditorium, offers more than 40,000 square feet of function space.

Ohio

Battelle Hall, part of the original Greater Columbus Convention Center, will be converted from exhibition space into one of the largest ballrooms in the state by late 2009.

In Sandusky, a Kalahari Resort opened in 2005 with 596 guest rooms and suites and the Nia Center. Nia has 95,000 square feet of meeting and event space in 25 meeting rooms, including a 17,200-square-foot grand ballroom. The resort is in the midst of an expansion that will take its 80,000-square-foot waterpark to 175,000 square feet.

Cincinnati's new Duke Energy Center, which recently completed a $135 million expansion and renovation, is a study in color that looks wonderful and helps attendees navigate the structure. Ideal convention sizes are one or two groups with 3,000 to 4,500 people. The Hyatt, Westin, and the Millennium are attached by skywalks to the center.

Hyatt Place Cincinnati-Northeast and Hyatt Place Cincinnati Airport/Florence opened in April, each with about 125 rooms and 875 square feet of meeting space. The new Hyatt brand hotels are designed with free Wi-Fi access, food whenever guests want it, large desks, and 42-inch flat-panel, high-definition televisions.

Trip Tips!

  • Megabus, a division of Coach USA, has started service to nine Midwestern cities, including Milwaukee, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, and Detroit. The hub is Chicago. Megabus works on the Southwest Airlines model: fast, no-frills service direct to city centers. Tickets are available online and range from $1 to $60 per trip. www.megabus.com/us

  • Hereschicago.com is Chicago's Resource Directory, providing meeting and event planners access to professional meeting and event venues and services in Chicagoland.

Ask the CVB

Illinois

Chicago Convention &Visitors Bureau
(312) 567-8500
www.choosechicago.com
Total Hotel Tax: 14.9%

Rosemont ConventionBureau
(847) 823-2100
rosemont.com
Total Hotel Tax: 12.5%

Indiana

Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Authority
(317) 639-4282
indy.org
Total Hotel Tax: 15%

Michigan

Detroit Metro CVB
(888) 225-5389
visitdetroit.com
Total Hotel Tax: 13% to 15%

Minnesota

Greater Minneapolis CVA
(800) 445-7412(612) 767-8000
minneapolismeetings.com
Total Hotel Tax: 13%

Ohio

CVB of Greater Cleveland
(800) 321-1001
clevelandmeetings.com
Total Hotel Tax: 15.5%

Greater Cincinnati CVB
(800) 543-2613
cincymeetings.com
Total Hotel Tax: 17%

Special Venues

Cleveland Botanical Garden is an exotic Glasshouse — the only one of its kind. It has 10 acres of gardens, including a children's garden. The venue in University Circle offers magnificent settings for events, with space that can seat 250 guests theater-style. Full-service catering and AV and teleconferencing support are available. www.cbgarden.org

The Epic Center is home to the arts in Kalamazoo, Mich. The 89,000-square-foot building is designed in Industrial art-deco style and houses several options for meetings, including an atrium, a boardroom, a classroom, and two theaters. (269) 342-5059; www.epiccenter.org

The Harley-Davidson Museum is under construction at Sixth and Canal streets in Milwaukee. The 130,000-square-foot museum, which is expected to open in 2008, will feature exhibits as well as meeting space, special events facilities, and the company's archives. Contact the CVB: (414) 287-4241

Coco Key, Chicago's first major indoor waterpark resort, is in Arlington Heights at the Sheraton Chicago Northwest. The facility will be available for groups as a teambuilding venue. The Sheraton has 426 guest rooms and 30,000 square feet of meeting space.