Courtesy Lafayette-W. Lafayette CVB
With a combined population of 156,500, Lafayette and West Lafayette market themselves as one great community with one collegiate claim to fame: Purdue University.
On average, meetings attendance runs from 50 to 400 during the school year, but in summer, with greater access to campus facilities, those numbers can swell to 3,000.
Religious and academic groups are frequent customers, as are associations and government groups, said Ashley Gregory, group tours and meetings manager for the Visit Lafayette-West Lafayette.
To keep up with demand, a number of hotels in the area are being revitalized, including the former University Plaza in West Lafayette and the Union Club Hotel on the Purdue campus.
The 171-room University Plaza will become a Four Points by Sheraton. Its location, next to the Purdue Research Park and a mile from the school, appealed to Starwood Hotels, who wanted a hotel in the town because of its college culture and lively sports scene. The hotel has 13,000 square feet of conference space.
A recent renovation gave the 192-room Union Club Hotel, located in Purdue Memorial Union, a more contemporary decor and modern touches like flat-screen televisions.
The hotel is operated by Purdue Conferences, which hosts meetings that range in size from 10 to 6,000 guests. Purdue Union Hall contains the North Ballroom and South Ballroom, and combined, the two can hold 1,200 at rounds of six.
Along with the Union Club Hotel, groups can use residence halls when students are not on campus.
The newest, First Street Towers, was designed for older residents. Single, air-conditioned rooms with private baths cluster around a living room-dinette area.
The $52 million residence hall can house 365 residents. Meeting guests enjoy complimentary coffee in the morning and evening refreshments.
Another new venue is the 53-year-old Recreational Sports Center. A $98 million reinvention that should be completed by fall 2012 includes new multipurpose rooms with audiovisual services and wireless Internet access for meetings, according to Susan Xioufaridou, sales coordinator for the Purdue University Conference Division.
Despite the dominance of Purdue, the cities are not one-dimensional, as meeting groups learn when they venture into the farmlands that surround Lafayette and West Lafayette.
At Wea Creek Orchard, five miles from town, a restored bank barn is now the site of receptions and reunions for up to 250. Peach, apple and nectarine trees shade the farm, run by three families whose ancestors have owned the land since the mid-1800s.
Exploration Acres also has a barn to book, as well as the largest corn maze in northwest Indiana in the fall.
Historic Prophetstown, a 1920s-style horse farm with replica and original Sears, Roebuck and Co. houses, has facilities for indoor and outdoor events with built-in charm.