Courtesy South Bend/Mishawaka CVB
The University of Notre Dame is not the only institution of higher learning in the South Bend-Mishawaka area. Holy Cross College is a four-year Catholic liberal-arts college, and St. Mary’s College is an all-female liberal-arts college.
Located 90 miles southeast of Chicago and 140 miles north of Indianapolis, South Bend sits in a sweet spot.
U.S. interstates 80 and 90 provide highway access, and the five airlines that serve South Bend Airport have direct connections to 10 U.S. cities.
When the airport completes its 45,000-square-foot concourse expansion in December, the terminal will have five new gates and more amenities for travelers.
The area targets all meeting markets, but primarily draws professional and nonprofessional associations such as collector and hobby groups, government and medical conferences, and, of course, faith-based and academic organizations, according to Carolyne Wallace, director of sales for the CVB.
The convention anchor remains the Century Center in South Bend. The center overlooks the St. Joseph River on an 11-acre riverfront park and has more than 75,000 square feet of function space. A skywalk links it to a 298-room hotel that by this month should transition from a Marriott to a Doubletree by Hilton.
Edmonds, Wash.-based the Hotel Group is buying the hotel and it will be renovated.
“We love university markets,” said Lara Latture, executive vice president of the Hotel Group in a July 3 article in the South Bend Tribune. “We have a proven track record working with university leaders, and this fits our market expertise perfectly.”
The College Football Hall of Fame, connected to the Century Center, is a popular special-event space, with its 4,300-square-foot Press Room and the Stadium Theater, which seats 300.
Equally distinctive is the Studebaker National Museum, which can accommodate groups of up to 50 in the boardroom and 225 in the open atrium. Classic automobiles are ready-made decor. It is a short distance from the Century Center, near downtown.
The Gillespie Conference and Special Event Center near Notre Dame is another favored facility. Its 8,400-square-foot Fleur de Lis Ballroom has a flexible configuration so it can hold 190 to 760 at a banquet.
The center is adjacent to two hotels: the Inn at St. Mary’s Hotel and Suites, and the Hilton Garden Inn.
Not to be outdone is the Notre Dame Conference Center, with on-site event planners, near the heart of the college’s campus.
Some of the eight conference-style rooms can be combined to hold more attendees. The full-service, AAA Three Diamond 92-room Morris Inn is located on the campus, across the street from the conference center. If school is not in session, planners can book residence halls.
In Mishawaka, the Riverside Terrace, which Wallace calls “one of Mishawaka’s best-kept secrets,” recently completed a multimillion-dollar renovation that added a 500-person ballroom with river views. The original ballroom, which can seat 350, was also renovated.
Activities in the area include cemetery and walking tours, tours of religious sites and museum exhibits that salute spiritual figures, such as “Women and Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America,” which runs until Dec. 31 at the Center for History in South Bend, another off-site venue.
“We are a community steeped in history and tradition, and spirituality is evident at every turn,” Wallace said.