Some of the most famous colleges in the country are in Indiana, making the towns they reside in advantageous places to host meetings or conferences with a hint of team spirit. Not only are Notre Dame, Purdue University, Ball State University, Indiana State University and the University of Indiana full of exceptional meeting locations, they also have much to offer meeting attendees during their free time.
Evansville is home to three universities, which have all left their mark on the city. Groups with or without an affiliation to the University of Evansville, the University of Southern Indiana and the University of Indiana School of Medicine will find plenty of meeting opportunities on all three campuses.
The University of Evansville has meeting spaces that can accommodate groups of 10 to 482. The Shanklin Theatre is the largest meeting space, with seating set up around a thrust stage. Wheeler Concert Hall can host groups of up to 247, and the Schroeder School of Business Atrium makes a fine spot for small receptions or banquets.
The University of Southern Indiana can host groups of up to 700 in Carter Hall, a ballroom on the second floor of the University Center. Meeting spaces are also available outdoors and in the Performance Center, the Griffin Center, the Screaming Eagles Arena and classroom buildings.
Groups that want to be near the universities can also host events in town.
Old National Events Plaza is Evansville’s main convention center, with 95,000 square feet of event space. Tropicana Evansville also has meeting space, including two hotels, four restaurants, a casino and the Executive Conference Center, which has more than 22,000 square feet of meeting space.
Meeting groups that want to add some team spirit to their events can work with the Evansville Convention and Visitors Bureau to set up a block party on Main Street that features banners with their organization’s logo or university affiliation on them. The street can be closed off and food trucks brought in for an unusual evening event.
Bloomington and the University of Indiana (IU) are inextricably linked but have their own distinct identities, making them desirable conference destinations. The IU campus has more than 50,000 square feet of flexible meeting space and a 187-room hotel that is housed in the Indiana Memorial Union, the country’s largest student union under one roof. Most of the events that take place in that building have an educational slant, including alumni groups that want to relive their college days in Bloomington.
The IU Auditorium, which has 3,400 seats, is an excellent location for a lecture or a conference. It also offers a slate of Broadway shows and other events that groups can enjoy in their free time. Opera and ballet enthusiasts can take in a performance at the Musical Arts Center on campus or visit IU’s art museum, which recently reopened after a $30 million renovation.
The Monroe Convention Center is the largest meeting space off campus, with 26,000 square feet of flexible space. It can comfortably host groups of up to 300 people. There are about 800 hotel rooms available downtown and in easy walking distance of the convention center at places like Hyatt Place, SpringHill Suites, Hilton Garden Inn and Courtyard by Marriott. Bloomington has 350 restaurants, a host of locally owned shops and numerous live music venues. For meeting attendees that want to enjoy the outdoors, Bloomington is surrounded by forests and sits on Monroe Lake, the largest inland lake in Indiana.
Purdue University dominates West Lafayette. Meeting planners interested in visiting the area will find plenty of meeting spaces on campus, including the Purdue Union Club Hotel, a full-service, 192-room hotel with two ballrooms that can hold 1,200 for a cocktail reception or 800 for a banquet. The hotel is connected to the Stewart Center, a meeting facility that can host groups of up to 500. It has two auditoriums: Fowler Hall, with 400 seats, and the Loeb Playhouse, with 1,000 seats.
Attendees that want to get to know the home of the Boilermakers can take various tours around campus or take a ride on the Boilermaker Special VII, a steam train replica that serves as the official mascot of Purdue University. Groups also can plan a dinner at the 8Eleven Modern Bistro in the Union Club Hotel at Purdue, which celebrates the Gemini 8 and Apollo 11 space missions and their command pilot, Purdue alum Neil Armstrong.
Off campus, groups can book a conference at the Tippecanoe County Fairgrounds or at three large hotels with conference centers: the Hilton Garden Inn, the Four Points by Sheraton or the Hampton Inn and Suites. The area also has eight additional hotels with meeting spaces.
Muncie not only is the home of Ball State University but also claims Bob Ross, Garfield creator Jim Davis and David Letterman as distinguished former residents. Meeting planners that wish to incorporate the university into their events have many options. The L.A. Pittenger Student Center is one of the most popular meeting spots. It has a ballroom, lounges, recreation areas, meeting rooms, conference and catering facilities, a student art gallery, a bowling alley and a 24-room hotel. It can accommodate groups of up to 500 theater style.
The David Owsley Museum of Art on campus also has meeting space, and the Alumni Center is a great location for small retreats. In town, there are 16 hotels, many with meeting space. The Horizon Convention Center has 47,000 square feet of meeting space and is attached to a 150-room Courtyard by Marriott. The largest room in the center is Delaware Hall, with 23,400 square feet. It can be divided into two rooms that can each accommodate 1,000 theater style and 500 banquet style.
The Minnetrista Cultural Center is a gathering place that incorporates the former homes of the Ball brothers, who founded the Ball Corporation. The Bob Ross Experience recently opened in the historic Lucius L. Ball home, which is part of Minnetrista’s museum campus. Ross filmed his PBS show “The Joy of Painting” there from 1983 to 1988. Fans of Jim Davis and Garfield can see 13 statues of the famous lasagna-lovin’ feline along the Garfield Statue Trail.
South Bend, Indiana
The home of four college campuses — Notre Dame, St. Mary’s College, Indiana University South Bend and Holy Cross College — South Bend is the consummate college town. Depending on your event requirements, each campus has opportunities for facility rentals that can host groups of any size.
Notre Dame is the main attraction in South Bend, and the university has invested millions of dollars renovating McKenna Hall, the university’s main conference center, which is scheduled to open in September 2021. It sits across the street from the Morris Inn, a university-owned 150-room hotel. Between McKenna Hall and the Morris Inn, there will be 30,000 square feet of meeting space available. Meeting groups that want to learn more about Notre Dame can schedule guided tours of campus, the football stadium, the basketball arena and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.
Meeting groups can also book space in one of the beautiful ballrooms that overlook Notre Dame’s football stadium.
In town, South Bend’s largest meeting facility is the 100,000-square-foot Century Center. The convention center is connected to the 600-room DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel via a climate-controlled sky bridge and to the Courtyard by Marriott by an underground tunnel. The DoubleTree and the Aloft South Bend, which is two blocks away, both have meeting spaces. In total, South Bend has more than 5,000 hotel rooms.
For fun, meeting attendees should visit the Studebaker National Museum, the Studebaker Mansion and the Oliver Mansion. The more adventurous should plan team-building activities at the East Race Waterway, the first man-made water rafting course in North America.