THE ECONOMY HAS HAD an impact on the hospitality industry like everything else, but Indiana is better-positioned in the marketplace to weather the storm than many states. Here's a look at some of the trends, the largest meetings and conventions around the state in 2009 and some facility upgrades.
Northwest Indiana. Three major meetings/conventions are coming to Merrillville's Radisson at Star Plaza this year--the annual Central Territory Salvation Army Convention (June 12-14), Model "A" Ford Restorers Club (MARC) National Meet (June 21-26) and the Great Lakes Shrine Association Ceremonial Session (September 16-20). Three thousand attendees are expected at the Salvation Army Convention, which will also utilize the Star Plaza Theater. The Salvation Army is a religious organization well known for its social services and charitable work.
2009 marks the first year MARC has held its national meeting in Merrillville. This year's event, sponsored by Henry's As Region, anticipates 1,200 attendees who will take photographs, study body styles, exchange ideas and buy, sell or trade parts. They will take trips to Albanese Candy Factory, downtown Crown Point, Fair Oaks Farm and Horseshoe Casino. The week will also include events at the Crown Point Fair Grounds. "The Model "A" Restorers Club is a unique piece of business because it will bring hundreds of these historic cars into the area for a week this summer," says Kate Hurley, Convention Sales Manager, South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority. "The convention will be highly visible with people driving through town."
This is the first time the Great Lakes Shrine Association's event, hosted this year by The Michigan City-based Orak Shrine, has been held in Merrillville. The Great Lake Shrine Association provides funding for expert, innovative medical care for children at 22 North American Shriners' Hospitals. Two-thousand Shriners are expected to gather in downtown Crown Point on Saturday, September 19th for a parade featuring clowns, horses, bands, marching units and small motorized vehicles.
The Radisson at Star Plaza, which has 60,000 square feet of convention space, can accommodate up to 800 people in rounds or 1,200 theatre-style in its largest ballroom. The Star Plaza Theatre can accommodate up to 3,400 people. Meeting space is equipped with complimentary high-speed Internet and offers in-house, professional audio-visual services.
Other meeting space in Northwest Indiana includes the Venue at the newly expanded Horseshoe Casino. The Venue was created by the same team who designed the Coliseum at Caesars Palace and the Showroom at Wynn Las Vegas. The 90,000-square-foot facility can accommodate a large-scale production for over 3,000 attendees or a banquet for up to 1,500 people. It features six VIP suites that can function as breakout rooms. The casino's ballroom, divisible by four, can seat up to 300 people. The Purdue Calumet Conference Center is Northwest Indiana's only dedicated conference center in a university setting. With more than 7,000-square-feet of meeting space, it can seat 256 people banquet-style or 400 people theatre-style in its ballroom. Two tiered classrooms can each seat 47 people.
"I think the use of convention bureaus will only continue to rise," Hurley says. "Convention Bureaus provide several services that help meeting planners keep costs down. For example, the South Shore CVA can create micro sites. These customized web pages can provide attendees all the information they need on the convention. In today's economic climate these services will only continue to be sought after."
Northern Indiana. South Bend's Century Center will host several events this year. The annual Mary Kay Career Conference (March 25-29) anticipates 1,200 attendees. The Notre Dame Tax and Estate Planning Institute (September 30-October 1) anticipates 1,000 attendees, while the annual Association of Christian Schools International Mid-America Regional Conference (October 6-9) anticipates 2000 attendees. The Christian Educators Association (October 21-23) will bring 1,800 to South Bend. Two groups, both anticipating 500 attendees, are bringing their conferences to the Century Center for the first time this year: the Great Lakes Bio-Energy Conference (June 2-5) hosted by Michigan State University's Great Lakes Bio-Energy Center and The Autism and Alternative Treatment/Biomedical Conference (January 29-February 1) hosted by DisabilityGoTo out of Bath, Michigan.
Five thousand participants will compete in the National Baton Twirling Association's America's Youth on Parade July 21-24 at the University of Notre Dame and Indiana University South Bend athletic facilities. It is the 44th World Showcase of "Youth, Beauty, Pageantry and Tradition." The public is invited to the free event. Two-hundred attendees are expected for the Lincoln Highway Association National Convention (June 15-21) at the Holiday Inn Downtown which will celebrate President Lincoln's Bicentennial.
"We're working hard and we're optimistic," says Carolyne Wallace, Director of Sales, South Bend/ Mishawaka Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We have been able to secure or book business both for the shortterm in 2009, and further out--2010, 2011 and 2012."
Northeast Indiana. "The total number of individual convention bookings has been about even in 2008 compared to 2007," says Jim Nirmaier, Vice President Group Sales for the Fort Wayne Convention & Visitors Bureau. "However, the total number of cumulative hotel sleeping room nights are somewhat less this year compared to last. Overall, we are seeing a diminishment of convention...