Greater Chicago

Greater Chicago

K. T. Cellini

The Greater Chicago area keeps getting, well, greater. Thousands of new hotel rooms are opening in the metropolitan area this year, and a new conference center for small meetings is under construction at the McCormick Place complex–already the nation’s largest exposition facility. Meanwhile, one of the industry’s premier meeting organizations, the Professional Convention Management Association, is moving its headquarters from Birmingham, Ala., to the new conference center in McCormick Place, where it will have office space that will include a high-tech learning environment, home to “PCMA University.”

Also new in downtown Chicago: the Shakespeare Theater Complex and the Stained Glass Museum–both in Navy Pier (see sidebar, page 191). The 100,000-square-foot DisneyQuest indoor virtual reality theme park, which debuted last summer, is already drawing huge crowds.

More groups are booking business outside the tight downtown Chicago market as well. There are plenty of alternatives for all but mega-meetings. With 700,000 square feet of exhibit space, the Rosemont Convention Center–now renamed the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in honor of the former Rosemont mayor who had the vision to develop Rosemont as a convention destination–is the magnet for hundreds of new hotel rooms opening this year and next.

The Village of Tinley Park, in the Chicago Southland area, will open a new 60,000-square-foot convention center this summer with 35,600 square feet of function space. The 207-room Holiday Inn New Millennium Hotel will open next to the center, featuring a business center, meeting rooms, and a spa.

Other affordable alternatives to downtown Chicago: Westside Chicago’s DuPage County has launched an aggressive marketing campaign to bring small conventions and meetings to the area, which features 10,000 guest rooms, great shopping venues, and attractions such as the Morton Arboretum, the Elmhurst Art Museum, and the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art. Within the county, Lisle offers a full-service convention bureau, as well as 1,471 guest rooms.

Northwest of Chicago, Greater Woodfield encompasses a mix of business hotels, conference centers, and resorts, with 11,000 guest rooms. The suburb Prospect Heights is nine miles from O’Hare and offers 800 first-class hotel rooms. And between Milwaukee and Chicago, Lake Country offers several top resorts and conference centers, as well as Gurnee Mills Six Flags theme park.

For updates on Chicago area hotels and convention facilities, visit, which offers a one-stop shopping site for meeting planners created by the Illinois Bureau of Tourism. Planners can enter their meeting criteria, and the searchable database for the entire site.


The city has more than 2,000 hotel rooms under construction and another 6,000 proposed for the next five years.


* The 203-room Park Hyatt Chicago, which opened in April, has 5,000-square feet of function space.

* The 2,019-room Hyatt Regency Chicago opened its new 10,000-square-foot ballroom in April.

* A 412-room Hotel Sofitel in downtown Chicago recently broke ground. It should open in early 2002.

* The 310-room Grand Bay Hotel is expected to open in 2001.

* The 340-room Peninsula Hotel is scheduled to open on North Michigan Avenue in 2001.

* The 535-room Drake Hotel Chicago finishes a $40 million refurbishment this year, including all guest rooms.

* The $60 million Wyndham Hotel Chicago opened in 1999 with 417 guest rooms, two ballrooms, and five meeting rooms.

* Following a $28 million refurbishment, the historic Reliance Building on State Street reopened last year as the 122-room, European-style Hotel Burnham.

* The Regal Knickerbocker has 325 rooms and 21 suites and is located one block east of Michigan Avenue at the top of the Magnificent Mile. The hotel offers 14 meeting rooms for a total of 18,000 square feet of meeting space.

* The 443-room Allerton reopened in May 1999 as the Allerton Crowne Plaza after a $50 million renovation.


Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau

Phone: (312) 567-8501

Fax: (312) 567-8533


McCormick Place Complex

Phone: (312) 791-6430

Fax: (312) 791-6543

Has 2.2 million square feet of meeting and exhibit space. Recently added a 4,000-car parking garage and created a dedicated bus lane to connect the center with downtown. Expected to be completed in 2001: a three-story, 30,000-square-foot conference center with 11 meeting rooms.

The self-contained Lakeside Center, which opened in 1998, handles small to mid-size events, with its 300,000-square-foot main exhibit hall, 40 meeting rooms, 22,000-square-foot Vista Room overlooking Lake Michigan, and the city’s largest ballroom, at 45,000 square feet.

The Grand Concourse connects the Lakeside and the South and North buildings, and it allows the North and South exhibit halls to be used for one event, with a total of 1.6 million square feet of meeting and exhibit space.

Navy Pier

Phone: (312) 595-5300

Fax: (312) 595-5050

Offers 170,000 square feet of exhibit space plus 36 meeting rooms, an 18,000-square-foot ballroom, and the 1,500-seat open-air Skyline Stage theater.

Merchandise Mart Expocenter

Phone: (312) 527-7610

Fax: (312) 527-7998

Navy Pier Gets New Attractions

Navy Pier, Chicago’s top-visited attraction, has two more reasons to draw visitors: a new Shakespeare Theater and a new museum of stained glass.

In its former location, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater had won numerous awards over the last decade. With its new location, the theater group expects to reach an even wider audience. “Navy Pier is a destination point for all Chicagoans and for all people who come to visit the city,” says theater founder and artistic director Barbara Gaines. “The Pier offers the most beautiful view of Chicago.”

Modeled loosely after the Swan Theater in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, the seven-story Chicago Shakespeare Theater features an intimate 525-seat, courtyard-style theater. Open year-round, the complex also includes a 200-seat studio theater, plus production and special events space, an English-style pub, and an outdoor English Garden.

In February the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows, the first museum in the United States dedicated exclusively to stained-glass windows, opened in Navy Pier. The exhibit will eventually include more than 150 stained-glass windows, tracing the culture and history of Chicago from 1870 to the present. The collection is permanently displayed in an 800-foot-long series of galleries along the lower terraces of Festival Hall. Has 100,000 square feet of exhibit space on one floor, plus 20 meeting rooms.

Total Hotel Tax: 14.9 percent


* The 128-room Hilton Garden Inn in Oakbrook Terrace opened in May 1999.


* The 384-room Oakbrook Hills Resort & Conference Center has renovated all guest rooms.

* The 160-room Drake Oak Brook, accommodating 400 for meetings, recently completed a renovation.

* The Hyatt Regency Oak Brook has 423 rooms and suites and 30,000 square feet of function space, including its 1,700-square-foot Executive Training Center.

* The 347-room Marriott Oak Brook completed in February a $5 million renovation upgrading guest rooms and meeting rooms, lobby, pool, and other areas. A new restaurant was also added. Exterior renovations are planned for the 12-story building.

* The Renaissance Oak Brook Hotel has 12 meeting rooms and more than 10,000 square feet of meeting space.

* The 128-room Hilton Garden Inn in Oakbrook Terrace opened in May 1999.

* Bristol Hotels and Resorts will manage the new Staybridge Suites by Holiday Inn in Oakbrook Terrace. The 110-suite hotel is expected to open in the fall of this year.

* The 384-room Oakbrook Hills Resort & Conference Center; a Dolce International Conference Center 20 minutes from O’Hare, completed a renovation of all guest rooms in February 2000. The resort has purchased new videoconferencing equipment, and it offers 35,000 square feet of meeting space in 31 rooms. Four lower-level boardrooms were recently renovated.


DuPage CVB

Phone: (800) 232-0502 (630) 575-8070

Fax: (630) 575-8078


The city’s room inventory is expected to grow to nearly 6,000 hotel rooms by spring 2000.


* Construction of a Four-Diamond, 450-room Omni Rosemont Hotel is scheduled to begin this summer. Opening is scheduled for 2002.

* A 369-room Doubletree O’Hare Hotel opened in April across the street from the convention center.

* The 206-room Hyatt Rosemont opened in October with 7,600 square feet of function space.

* The 300-room Hawthorn Hotel & Suites O’Hare, which opened in 1999, has 2,700 square feet of meeting space.

* The 1,100-room Hyatt Regency O’Hare last year completed a renovation of its 400-room Executive Tower.

* Rosemont Suites Hotel O’Hare completed a renovation of all 295 two-room guest suites and 22 conference suites.


The Rosemont Convention Bureau

Phone: (847) 823-2100

Fax: (847) 696-9700

Donald F. Stephens Convention Center

(formerly Rosemont Convention Center)

Phone: (847) 823-2100

Fax: (847) 696-9700

It has 700,000 square feet of exhibit space and 28 meeting rooms, plus a ballroom that accommodates up to 3,000.

Total Hotel Tax: 12.5%



* The Village of Tinley Park, in the Chicago Southland area, will open a 60,000-square-foot convention center this summer. It will have 35,600 square feet of meeting and exhibit space. The 207-room Holiday Inn New Millennium Hotel will open next door, featuring a business center, meeting rooms, and a spa.

* The 304-room Hilton Lisle/Naperville has completed a renovation that includes the upgrading of all 309 guest rooms. A business center was added in 1999, as was high-speed Internet access to the hotel’s meeting rooms.

* The 314-room Indian Lakes Resort in Bloomingdale and the 228-room Nordic Hills Resort in Itasca have completed renovations to health club facilities to provide new space to offer ChiroSpa services to guests. Both resorts are managed by Montclair Hotels & Resorts. The new service combines chiropractic therapy and a variety of massages.

* The 472-room Pheasant Run Resort and Convention Center in St. Charles completed a total renovation last year. The hotel has 100,000 square feet of meeting space plus the recently redone Bourbon Street indoor theme area.

* Golf Magazine has awarded the Eagle Ridge Inn & Resort in Galena a silver medal as one of the finest golf resorts in the U.S. The resort has 63 holes of golf. The 80-room Eagle Ridge Inn has more than 390 resort homes and a world class equestrian center.


Lake County Illinois CVB

Phone: (847) 662-2700; Fax:(847) 662-2702

Lisle CVB

Phone: (630) 769-1000; (800) 733-9811

Fax: (630) 769-1006 / lislecvb /

Chicago Southland CVB

Phone: (888) 895-8233; (708) 895-8200

Fax: (708) 895-8288 / chicago-southland-cvb

Prospect Heights CVB

Phone: (847) 577-3666; (800) 955-7259

Fax: (847) 577-3790

Greater Woodfield CVB

Phone: (800) 847-4849; Fax: (847) 605-0120


Meting Planners Say

The American Welding Society, based in Miami, held its annual exposition at Chicago’s McCormick Place in April of this year. As part of the program, the group held a special reception for about 250 international attendees at the city’s most popular tourist attraction, Navy Pier. Delegates were shuttled by bus to the event from the headquarters hotel, Sheraton Chicago, and from various other hotels in the group’s room block. “Some of the attendees took a taxi to the Pier, but taxis are not a great idea because they can only take you to the entrance to the Pier and then you have to walk the rest of the way,” notes managing director Tom Davis.

His group, last met in Chicago in 1996, when the annual exposition drew 25,000 total registration This year, the event drew 20,000. Davis says he is not sure why the event didn’t pull as many registrants as 1996, but his group plans to be back to Chicago every other year from now on. “Our trade show is primarily an industrial event, and you can’t beat Chicago for that.”

The Private Label Manufacturers Association in New York City has for years held its annual Private Label Trade Show at the Rosemont Convention Center (recently renamed the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center). And for Creative Impact Group has handled the entertainment and decor needs for the groups, says Joanne Brooks, president of the Deerfield, Ill.–based full-service production company,

“In 1998 the theme was Top Secret and last year the theme of the entire meeting was PLMA’s Megashow, in honor of the group’s 20th anniversary,” Brooks says. She contracted with Capitol Steps to provide the celebrity entertainment for a gala gathering of about 1,000 PLMA attendees, held at the ballroom of the Hyatt Regency O’Hare, the headquarters hotel for the group. According to Brooks, the association meets every year in Rosemont “because they love the attention and convenience” of meeting in Rosemont.

Venue Menu

* The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago provides dramatic event spaces with city views, vaulted ceilings, a 300-seat state-of-the-art theater, a private meeting center, conference rooms, and a terrace and sculpture garden overlooking Lake Michigan. Plus guests get to enjoy some of the world’s most celebrated contemporary art. Call (312) 397-3855

* Chicago’s popular Museum of Science and Industry can accommodate up to 800 guests for dinner or 3,000 for a reception in the exhibit area. Call (312) 684-1414.

* At Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding, the audience participates in a satire of an Italian-American “wedding.” In addition to group discounts for performances at the downtown Chicago venue, there is separate function space for receptions. Phone: (312) 664-0773.

* The Stadium Club at Comiskey Park, home of the Chicago White Sox baseball team, is available on days when there are no games. On game days, two Terrace Rooms can be booked. Call (312) 674-5151.

* Interested in professional dinner theater? The Pheasant Run Dinner Theatre in St. Charles (630/584-6300), the posh Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace (630/530-8300), the classic Stage Right Dinner Theatre (630/595-2044), and the unique Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament in Schaumburg (847/882-1496) are some options in the Chicago metro area. Special seating available for groups.

* In DuPage County, visit the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, a mecca of high-energy physics research, with the largest energy particle accelerator in the world. Call (630) 840-3351

* In Hinsdale, the Robert Crown Center for Health Education is a popular field trip site, with programs and opportunities for children to learn about their bodies, health, and the environment. Call (630) 325-1900.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Adams Business Media

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group