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Green Bay Readies for A Game-Changing Meetings Delegation

A special opportunity for meeting planners to collaborate with dozens of destination and travel providers will be the highlight of the 2019 Small Market Meetings Conference, scheduled for September 24-26 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The annual event will unfold inside the beautiful KI Convention Center in downtown Green Bay, not far from the Fox River.

“We are excited to showcase Greater Green Bay and all that we have to offer for meetings, conferences and events,” said Beth Ulatowski, a director for the Greater Green Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Attendees are going to have a great time.”

The Hyatt Regency Green Bay is the official hotel for the conference. Skywalks will provide attendees with easy access to the convention center from the hotel. Kristine Hall, general manager of the Hyatt, urges delegates to bring their groups back to the hotel at a future date. “We have a total of 80,000 square feet of function space, and we can conform to whatever needs the planner has,” she said.

Unique Midsize City

Green Bay has a population of just over 100,000 people and is best known for its hometown football team, the NFL’s Green Bay Packers. Fans from all over the region and the nation pour into Green Bay for home football games at legendary Lambeau Field. This year, the Packers are celebrating 100 seasons in the NFL. Along the way, the team has won 13 league titles.

Meeting planners will be happy to learn that Lambeau Field can be booked well outside the football season, year-round in fact. The stadium was renovated in 2003, and the team added a beautiful five-story-tall, glass-enclosed space called the Lambeau Field Atrium. It includes 376,000 square feet of space for a variety of gatherings.

“They wanted to open up the stadium for more than just 10 football games a year and to offer opportunities for events, meetings and every kind of gathering,” said Atrium account executive Casey Ausloos.

For example, football-loving families often stage weddings and receptions in the stadium and atrium. Every type of meeting or event that can be imagined can be held in the many rooms and exclusive spaces.

The stadium site also includes the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame and the Packers Pro Shop, which has a dizzying array of Packers and NFL items for sale. There is also a restaurant called the 1919 Kitchen and Tap. In addition, guided tours of the stadium are available and include visits to the impressive suites, views from out in the stands and a walk through the historic players’ tunnel that leads from the locker room directly to the field.

Professional sports teams around the country have taken the action to the neighborhoods surrounding their stadiums and arenas, and the Packers have joined the movement. They created the new Titletown District, a kind of neighborhood playground for adults. It includes wintertime tubing lanes down man-made Ariens Hill, plus ice skating, a full-size all-weather football field, a unique playground and plenty of game areas and fitness activities. Rockwood Terrace is a venue that sits atop Ariens Hill and that has exciting views through tall windows of Lambeau Field and the rest of Titletown. There are plenty of restaurants, bars, cozy gathering spaces and hotels in the district.

Green Bay officials are also excited about the new Brown County Veterans Memorial Complex, which broke ground this summer. The $93 million center will have 125,000 square feet of flexible exhibit and meeting space, and its large open floor plan will make it attractive for exhibitors who need extra space or must drive large vehicles onto the floor. The old expo center and arena had disjointed spaces: 20,000 square feet of space here and there in the buildings. Officials believe that the new space will help Green Bay compete with markets like Chicago and Minneapolis. The project is scheduled to be completed in January 2021.

The new complex is expected to attract shows and events from all over the country, helping to feed the local economy. The Greater Green Bay CVB said 5.8 million people visited Brown County in 2018 and generated $697 million in tourism spending. “Those visitors will go home and leave their dollars here,” said Brad Toll, CEO and president of the CVB.

Historically, Green Bay has also been a regional leader in the meatpacking, pulp-paper and health care industries. Transportation options are provided by the convenient Green Bay-Straubel International Airport, interstates 41 and 43 and Amtrak rail.

Getting Down to Business

The main reason meeting planners attend the Small Market Meetings Conference is to meet directly with as many destination providers as possible. This is accomplished during two busy marketplace sessions where planners and travel industry reps sit down for dozens of six-minute “get-to-know-ya” chats to see if they are a good match and if they might want to do business together in the future.

Lesia Waker of the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta is a prime example of how this system works. She attended last year’s Small Market Meetings Conference in Ontario, California, and came to it with an open mind about what she would see and learn from the providers on the other side of the table.

“We’re meeting with suppliers and venues to appeal for new destinations for our unique programs and meetings,” she told Small Market Meetings magazine at the time. “We do about three per year, and I’m looking for destinations outside of university settings that will appeal to researchers. Anyplace inside or outside the U.S. is fair game.” Waker later said she came away from the conference with many fresh ideas to mull over.

Wrapped around the marketplace sessions are a variety of conference activities, such as meals and city tours, that give delegates additional opportunities to interact with one another. These slower-paced times help delegates relax and get to know each other better. Delegates often continue conversations begun during the marketplace sessions.

Outstanding Speakers

The Small Market Meetings Conference is known for its parade of speakers who inform, entertain and inspire. Three of them will appear at the Green Bay meeting.

Bob Pacanovsky is a hospitality expert who believes that creating a memorable customer experience is vital for a business to be successful. He believes that customers prefer to deal with businesspeople they like, trust and respect. And no matter how good a brand name is, it still boils down to delivering what Pacanovsky calls a “Black Tie Experience.” That means making a personalized, emotional connection with the customer. This guest speaker will bring lots of suggestions and trade secrets to the conference for delegates to consider.

Meeting planners have endless details to manage when booking events. One of the most overlooked is the contract with a meeting venue or hotel. Attorney Lisa Sommer Devlin will come to Green Bay to tell delegates what they need to consider when negotiating a contract. For years, Devlin has represented hotels in their contract matters. She’ll relay how legal entanglements can be disastrous, especially if they could have been avoided. Meeting and event contracts can be affected by events right out of the news headlines. Devlin mentions that hurricanes, wildfires, politics, gun violence and other issues can have an impact on meetings or events. Devlin warns that the unexpected must be considered and accounted for in contract language.

Jim Spellos is a technology expert who brings the latest tech trends that his audiences can put to use right away in their work and personal lives. He advises that most people are not fully informed about tech issues, that they are cautious and that they don’t want to spend too much money to stay on top of things. He will bring ideas that will make it easier for everyone to get the tech tools they need to boost productivity.

FAMs and Sightseeing

Small Market Meetings Conference attendees enjoy visiting the cities where the meetings are held. In recent years, they have been welcomed in cities like Ontario, California; Little Rock, Arkansas; Mesa, Arizona; Huntsville, Alabama; and South Bend, Indiana, to name a few. Green Bay and its CVB will offer their special brand of hospitality when delegates arrive this fall. Sightseeing tours will be an important part of the conference schedule.

Preconference and postconference FAM tours were quickly booked this year. That’s because the city will be hopping during conference week. The Packers will host the Philadelphia Eagles on the night of the final day of the meeting. However, delegates who would like to return to Green Bay to do FAM tours in the future are encouraged to contact the convention and visitors bureau to make arrangements. FAM tours of Green Bay often include visits to Lambeau Field and the Titletown District, visits to different museums, stops at a few exceptional hotel properties and meals at several fine restaurants.

Small Market Meetings Conference attendees will enjoy choosing one of the five interesting sightseeing tours scheduled for day two of the meeting. One will be to the National Railroad Museum, a place full of both railroading and American history. This event is being dubbed Rails and Ales and will include a sampling of local craft beers. A second tour option will be to the city’s pride and joy: the gorgeous Green Bay Botanical Garden. A hands-on activity is planned for the group that chooses this trip. Another tour will be to the tribal village of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, just outside of Green Bay. A tour guide will explain the history and culture of this Native American Tribe.

Tour option four will be to visit the Automobile Gallery and its beautiful antique car collection covering every decade of the past century. The cars have been lovingly restored and are displayed in a former automobile dealership. Visitors are sure to see cars they remember fondly from throughout their lifetimes. The fifth tour option is the Neville Public Museum, which for more than 100 years has collected and presented artifacts and information about Green Bay and the greater region’s fascinating history, science and art.

Hotels of All Types

Brown County, of which Green Bay is the county seat, offers visitors a total of 4,500 hotel rooms. The area has a wide range of overnight accommodations, from bed-and-breakfast inns to convention-style hotels and everything in between.

Conference attendees will enjoy staying at the downtown Hyatt Regency but should note that there is a second hotel attached to the KI Convention Center: the Hampton Inn Green Bay Downtown. This riverfront hotel, along with the Hyatt, has direct access to the 20-mile-long Fox River State Recreational Trail. That’s good to know for delegates who arrive a little early for the conference or stay a little late.

Right across the street from the airport is the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center, which includes the Oneida Casino with gaming tables, slots, restaurants, bars and more. A $19 million property renovation is getting started, and the finished product will be appealing.

Within eyesight of Lambeau Field and the Titletown District is Lodge Kohler. It has a terrific restaurant, cafe and rooftop bar, plus a sumptuous spa that spoils guests with the best treatments.

Another outstanding property is the Hotel Northland. A phenomenal renovation was completed last winter. First opened in 1924, the building was once the largest hotel in Wisconsin and the scene of some of the state’s most important historical events. Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Hotel Northland with its Crystal Ballroom combines vintage beauty and appeal, but still offers the modern amenities hotel guests demand.

There are two other notable hotel options: The Delta Hotel by Marriott offers two indoor pools, a whirlpool and a fun waterslide. The hotel is excellent for meetings, weddings and other events. The Tundra Lodge Hotel and Water Park creates the feeling of a woodsy Northern lodge but also offers a fun and extensive indoor water park for kids and families.

Dan Dickson

Dan has been a communicator all his professional life, first as an award-winning radio and TV news reporter for two decades and then as a communications director for several non-profits for another decade. He has contributed to The Group Travel Leader Inc. publications since 2007.