Mayo and More in Rochester, Minnesota


Dan Dickson
Published August 04, 2017

The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, is a world-renowned nonprofit medical and research organization and is rated one of the best hospital systems in the country. It specializes in treating difficult medical cases. It is so good that it has been ranked at or near the top of the U.S. News and World Report’s list of “Best Hospitals” for the past 25 years. With dozens of facilities and more than 36,000 employees working in the metro area, Mayo Clinic dominates the economy in Rochester, Minnesota’s third-largest city.

It’s no wonder, then, that the city’s convention and visitors bureau sees an endless stream of health care-related conventions and meetings taking place there. But CVB leaders want meeting planners to know that it has some new facilities ready to accommodate not only health care meetings, but also professional gatherings of every type.

“From a product standpoint, we have a dynamic spot for meetings and conventions,” said Brad Jones, executive director of the Rochester, Minnesota, Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We are perfect for small to mid-sized meetings. We have a very comfortable downtown campus for that. It’s very connected through skyways and pedestrian subways.”

The variety of meetings and events that come to Rochester run the gamut. “We get some amateur sports events, religious groups and events, association meetings, technology and innovation groups — basically, a good sampling of all market segments,” said Jones.

Rochester, population 110,000, is in the southeast corner of Minnesota, about an hour south of Minneapolis and St. Paul, making it convenient to Wisconsin and Iowa. “We’re also on a highway that connects us to North and South Dakota,” Jones said. “We’re only five hours from Chicago. We get a lot of tristate business.”

Major Venue Renovation

A recently completed two-year expansion and renovation has given new life — and plenty of new space — to the city’s main convention facility. The Mayo Civic Center boasts the largest ballroom in Minnesota, with a seating capacity of 2,000 for banquets or 4,000 theater style; up to 23 breakout rooms are available. There is a new banquet production kitchen and sophisticated new production, audiovisual and wireless capabilities.

“We basically doubled the total space,” said Jones. “There is a little more than 200,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space all together. Convenience is one of our most important factors. You don’t need a vehicle to get around to it all.” The space also features a stunning prefunction space that overlooks the Zumbro River and downtown Rochester. Outside, Riverfront Plaza is a nice multiuse gathering spot or outdoor reception venue.

“We are able to accommodate some fairly good-sized groups, which is something we were not able to do before,” said Andy Krogstad, the managing director of the Mayo Civic Center. “We can now handle a couple of groups of 1,000 people at the same time.”

Taylor Arena is connected to the Mayo Civic Center campus and is used for concerts, family shows and sports events. It features festival seating for 7,200 and concert seating for 5,200. The floor also has 25,000 square feet for various uses. There is an exhibit hall with 25,000 square feet. The auditorium has 10,000 square feet of flat floor with 2,000 fixed seats. Presentation Hall features 1,200 sloped, fixed seats and is often used for general sessions, presentations and entertainment.

Krogstad knows that new facilities are not enough. He believes that the customer service and hospitality that groups receive at the Mayo Center are a cut above what they find at much larger centers in bigger cities.

“Our staff and the people of Rochester treat everyone as if they reside right here,” he said. “When people leave, they often say they were treated well, the staff was friendly, and everyone was so responsive to their needs. That’s something we pride ourselves on.”

Jones couldn’t agree more. “We serve about 3 million visitors a year in Rochester, so our city is really built on the foundation of hospitality,” he said. “We’re in that business. It’s our industry. We are used to hosting people from all over the world, so it’s natural for us to have a robust convention campus.”

An unusual meeting venue being promoted by the CVB is the Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center. Abraham was the founder of Slim-Fast and gave the Mayo Clinic a gift so it could construct the center.

“They have the capacity to do amazing off-campus meetings,” said Jones. “It has a general meetings area, and they have many interesting healthy-living components they weave into the meetings area, such as a demonstration kitchen where teams can do healthy cooking. They also offer seminars. It’s good for either a pre- or post-event gathering.”

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