. Ohio: A Political Convention Puts the National Spotlight on the Buckeye State | Successful Meetings

Ohio: A Political Convention Puts the National Spotlight on the Buckeye State

Cleveland in summer

As the U.S. presidential primary races enter their final months, the media's attention is increasingly focused on one city: Cleveland. This is where the Republican National Convention will be held July 18-21 at the Quicken Loans Arena, and (since there is a chance a nominee will have not yet been determined) promises to be one of the most unpredictable national party conventions in decades. But while it's anyone's guess how events will play out on the convention floor, it's a safe bet that the event's logistics, lodging, and satellite gatherings -- which are being closely assisted by the city's CVB, Destination Cleveland, through its association with the nonprofit, nonpolitical Cleveland 2016 Host Committee -- will go off without a hitch.

"Host Committee is using an integrated staffing approach that utilizes the expertise of the region's primary visitor organization without duplicating efforts," explains Mike Burns, CMP, senior vice president of convention sales and services at Destination Cleveland. "All departments of Destination Cleveland have had a hand in the planning. Key areas that we've assisted with include marketing, lodging, venue selection, and transportation."

For example, Destination Cleveland led the effort to contract the more than 16,000 hotel rooms needed for the convention.

According to Burns, such a high-profile event could not be happening at a better time for the city. Cleveland is in the midst of $3.5 billion in new, visitor-related infrastructure development, including the opening of multiple new hotels, such as the 600-room Hilton Cleveland Downtown, 161-room Schofield Hotel by Kimpton, and the 189-room Drury Plaza. According to Burns, "All of this growth combined with the 2013 opening of the FirstMerit Convention Center of Cleveland and Downtown's compact and walkable landscape makes it ideal for meetings of any size."

This infrastructure development extends to Cleveland's growing number of attractions. For example, Public Square, located in the heart of Downtown Cleveland, is currently undergoing a renovation that aims to make the whole area more pedestrian friendly. The Flats East Bank, located along the Cuyahoga River, has also been completely redeveloped to include new restaurants, an Aloft Hotel, entertainment venues, and a boardwalk.

And of course there's the city's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame -- "a great venue for private events while meeting in Cleveland," according to Burns -- as well as the city's first casino, the East Fourth Street entertainment district, and Playhouse Square. Groups also have access to Lake Erie, opening up additional options for teambuilding gatherings.


Columbus
Of course, Ohio is seeing plenty of exciting developments outside of Cleveland. The capital city is in the midst of a $125 million renovation and expansion of the already huge Greater Columbus Convention Center (GCCC). Scheduled for completion by July 2017, the expansion includes a full interior renovation, the addition of 36,000 square feet of exhibit space, and 10,000 square feet of two-level meeting space.

The exterior façade is undergoing cleaning and will have enhancements to help attendees with their arrival and navigation, transforming the center's east and west connector pick-up and drop-off points into more welcoming locations. It will also undergo extensive lighting upgrades and environmental improvements (including an event lawn, water features, and additional landscaping) that should qualify it for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

An eight-level, 800-space Goodale Garage (filling the footprint of the former 192-space North Lot) will simplify parking and storage for visitors to the convention center. It won't only be larger, but more attractive, with signature art pieces by Ohio artists on each level of the garage, making it easier for visitors to remember their spots.

The enhancements extend to the Hyatt Regency's meeting rooms, ballrooms, and public spaces, which are all undergoing upgrades to their finishes, wall coverings, ceilings, and sound systems. New Wi-Fi connectivity stations, public art, foliage, and executive boardroom will all greet meeting attendees visiting the property. The Regency will also be renovating its food court, shops, concession stand, and café locations -- and renaming its meeting rooms and exhibit halls.

While the convention center is the big news, Columbus has seen a significant expansion of its hotel inventory as well. This summer will see the opening of the 135-room Courtyard by Marriott and its accompanying Grand Event Center, offering 13,000 square feet of meeting rooms and a ballroom for up to 400 people. Columbus will also be the site of the first dual-branded Marriott property -- the $50 million Marriott and Residence Inn, consisting of a 240-room Marriott Hotel and 114-room Residence Inn, as well as 12,000 square feet of meeting and event space.

Last year saw the opening of the 135-room upscale boutique Le Meridien Columbus, The Joseph, boasting an impressive collection of art and the farm-to-table Guild House restaurant. In October, Marriott is slated to open the boutique Hotel LeVeque, a 155-room property in its Autograph Collection.


Clinton County

There are plenty of hidden gems throughout the state of Ohio as well. For example, Clinton County, in southwest Ohio, offers a number of first-rate meetings venues and hotels.

 

The 100,000-square-foot Roberts Conference Centre, adjacent to a 118-room Holiday Inn, complete with full-scale Max & Erma's restaurant and bar, offers a "complete ensemble" of meeting offerings, says Debbie Stamper, executive director for the Clinton County Convention & Visitors Bureau. The city of Wilmington also just added a new limited-service hotel to its menu of lodging choices.

"While it may be a smaller destination, [Clinton County's] strategic location equal distance from Cincinnati, Columbus, and Dayton makes it the superb place to pull in attendees," says Stamper. "When you combine this unparralleled facility, a cut above the rest with all the amenities that you would expect, and then add in the personal touch you'll receive, it's a win-win."



Questions or comments? Email [email protected]



This article appears in the May 2016 issue of Successful Meetings.

ESSENTIAL Tool Box
CONVENTION CENTERS & FACILITIES
The Greater Columbus Convention Center (currently 1.7 million sf); FirstMerit Convention Center of Cleveland (225,000 sf); Roberts Centre (100,000 sf); Duke Energy Convention Center (750.000 sf); Dayton Convention Center (150,000 sf)

ROOM TAX (including sales tax)
Cleveland: 16.5 percent
Cincinnati: 17.5 percent
Columbus: 17.5 percent


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Pinnacle Awards Go To:

 Cincinnati USA CVB
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Great Wolf Lodge at Kings Island


Clinton County

There are plenty of hidden gems throughout the state of Ohio as well. For example, Clinton County, in southwest Ohio, offers a number of first-rate meetings venues and hotels.

 

Clinton County boasts
the 100,000-square-foot
Roberts Conference Centre
Clinton County boasts the 100,000-square-foot Roberts Conference Centre

The 100,000-square-foot Roberts Conference Centre, adjacent to a 118-room Holiday Inn, complete with full-scale Max & Erma's restaurant and bar, offers a "complete ensemble" of meeting offerings, says Debbie Stamper, executive director for the Clinton County Convention & Visitors Bureau. The city of Wilmington also just added a new limited-service hotel to its menu of lodging choices.

"While it may be a smaller destination, [Clinton County's] strategic location equal distance from Cincinnati, Columbus, and Dayton makes it the superb place to pull in attendees," says Stamper. "When you combine this unparralleled facility, a cut above the rest with all the amenities that you would expect, and then add in the personal touch you'll receive, it's a win-win."



Questions or comments? Email [email protected]



This article appears in the May 2016 issue of Successful Meetings.