Although Marcy McKinley has been with the Grand Wayne Convention Center in downtown Fort Wayne, Indiana, for 12 years, the lack of staff turnover there makes her relatively new. Many of her coworkers have 20 or more years of service.
“You come and you never leave,” laughs the director of sales and marketing.
Such a wealth of institutional knowledge is quite an asset, especially considering that 80 percent of the more than 315 events held at Grand Wayne Convention Center in a year have been there before.
Why do so many meetings and events return to this mid-size convention center in Indiana’s second-largest city? Personal service, convenience and value are top factors, McKinley says.
Guest experience manager adds local touches
For example, two years ago, the Grand Wayne added a guest experience manager, a position seldom found at convention centers.
“The manager makes sure you have everything you need to have a good experience in Fort Wayne – not just in the building, but outside of it, too,” says McKinley.
Adding elements of Fort Wayne could range from having an interpreter from the historic Old Fort do a demonstration to having a night out at the minor-league ballpark. Sometimes the guest experience manager simply makes recommendations as a hotel concierge might. She’s been called upon to create nooks stocked with cards and puzzles where attendees can unwind. For a national SCRABBLE® competition, she arranged for a giant-size, 12-foot x 12-foot SCRABBLE® board with tiles for guests to enjoy during their downtime.
Guest hosts are another unique customer service feature. These part-time employees, often retired professionals, position themselves near escalators or outside meeting rooms to answer questions, give directions, resolve problems and provide another layer of security. Walkie-talkies in hand, they can radio appropriate staff. Dressed in green sport coats, they are easy to spot when planners need assistance.
Grand Wayne has good connections
The Grand Wayne Convention Center opened in 1985, and an extensive renovation in 2006 added much sparkle. The attractive two-story center has an easy-to-navigate floor plan, and its physical connections make it especially appealing.
At one end, the center is connected to the 246-room Hilton Fort Wayne. The historic Embassy Theatre, the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory and the 249-room Courtyard by Marriott, all across the street, are also linked by skybridges, to the Center. Later this year, a 136-room Hampton Inn & Suites will open next to the Courtyard; its rooftop bar will overlook Parkview Field, home to the award-winning Fort Wayne Tin Caps Class A Minor league baseball team. Downtown Fort Wayne, already a selling point with nearly 40 restaurants and pubs, will become even more so as a boutique hotel opens next year and the first phase of an extensive riverfront development with outdoor venues and boating is completed this summer.
Planners appreciate affordability
The Grand Wayne Convention Center also works to be efficient, flexible and affordable. Each meeting space is equipped with its own climate and lighting controls. The convention center is fully carpeted, including the 50,000-square-foot exhibit hall, a feature that has saved exhibitors thousands of dollars through the years.
Other cost savings result from complimentary equipment, including podiums, staging, tables and chairs, easels, skirted registration tables and pencils and notepads in every room. There are no drayage fees, and the wireless Internet service, which handles up to 5,000 simultaneous users, is free. The center also recently upgraded to brighter, more efficient LED lighting.
The Grand Wayne “sells itself”
When planners tour the Grand Wayne Convention Center and meet its staff, they understand why so many groups return. “When they visit, the Grand Wayne sells itself,” said McKinley.
For more information:
Grand Wayne Convention Center
Marcy McKinley, director of sales and marketing