When meetings come to Fort Wayne, Indiana, they nearly always come back.
“About 80 percent of our business is repeat, and usually, the longer a group comes here, the larger their convention becomes,” says Marcy McKinley, director of sales and marketing at the Grand Wayne Convention Center.
When they do leave, one reason dominates, she said. “They have done so well they outgrow us.”
Grand Wayne is a grand venue
It’s not that easy to outgrow Grand Wayne Convention Center. It covers two city blocks, yet is surprisingly easy to navigate. “No one gets lost, or walks their legs off,” says McKinley.
The center’s 225,000 square feet of meeting and event space flows seamlessly into the 246-room Hilton Fort Wayne. Five years ago, the 250-room Courtyard Courtyard by Marriott Fort Wayne Downtown was built across the street, linked by a skybridge. Three years later, a 136-room Hampton Inn & Suites opened next door to the Marriott. Skybridges also link the convention center to the historic Embassy Theatre, a botanical conservatory and one of three parking garages that serve the center. The view from the Hampton’s rooftop bar is of Parkview Field, home of minor-league baseball’s Fort Wayne Tincaps. Three blocks toward the St. Mary’s River and Promenade Park is The Bradley, a 125-room boutique hotel opened in July 2021 by the founder of Vera Bradley, the luggage and handbag design company based in Fort Wayne.
Classic good looks
Grand Wayne Convention Center has the classic good looks of an Elle MacPherson or George Clooney. It opened in 1985, but during a 2006 renovation, architects fully considered how to impart timelessness. The results are skylights and 1,860 large windows to pull in natural light, terrazzo floors that shine in the sunny foyer and carpet for comfort everywhere else, including the exhibit hall. Upgrades are constant. For example, well before the pandemic, the center invested in flexible seating that came in handy for social distancing. Rolling tables and chairs in its boardroom can be used as individual workstations or pushed together to create a traditional boardroom table. In some meeting rooms, moveable desks with swivel seats, cup holders and underseat storage, allow attendees to scoot about and reconfigure a room.
Staff add special touches
People often forget that Fort Wayne is Indiana’s second-largest city, perhaps because even as it offers big-city convention facilities, it maintains its small-town Midwestern character. Great examples are the local ambassadors who work part-time at the center, touting the town they love as they assist meeting attendees. Staff are constantly adding special touches like three-foot Rubik’s Cubes for the National Cubing Convention and discounts on fish and chips at local restaurants for the National Fishing Lures Collectors Convention.
McKinley could go on about Fort Wayne’s advantages– a meeting cost that’s typically 15 percent less than comparable cities among them–but she knows from experience what’s most convincing. “They need to see us to believe us,” she says.
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Grand Wayne Convention Center