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Kansas: Campus gives Lawrence life

Courtesy Visit Lawrence

When it comes to meetings, Lawrence is diverse. Associations, sales meetings, corporations, the SMERF market — “we get a little bit of everything, not just one type of group,” said Anne Dillon, conventions marketing manager for the Lawrence CVB.

Part of Lawrence’s popularity stems from its location, 25 miles from Topeka and 40 miles from Kansas City, Mo.

The presence of the University of Kansas, known for research as well as instruction, also cannot be ignored. Many of the city’s most popular attractions — the Dole Institute of Politics, the Natural History Museum, the Booth Family Hall of Athletics and the Spencer Museum of Art — are on campus.

The university also gives Lawrence life. According to Dillon, every night of the week, the historic downtown hops with shopping, nightlife and dining.

The energy Lawrence exudes creates new ideas and projects, among them several of benefit to meeting planners. Eighteen months ago, the owners of the elegant Eldridge Hotel and Eldridge Extended opened another hotel: the Oread. The 101-room hotel at the university’s north gate is upscale, with granite baths and flat-screen televisions. It also has eight event spaces, including the Griffith Ballroom and the Hancock Ballroom; each fits 550 for a reception. Gathering rooms hold from 12 to 60 classroom style.

Also new is the Alton Ballroom in Pachamamas, a popular restaurant. The space, which can seat 200, features a polished wood dance floor, a natural stone bar, brick walls and audiovisual capabilities.

The city’s historic Carnegie library is now an events venue, after having most recently served as an arts center.

Another restored and renovated historic property, the Castle Tea Room is now open for meetings and special events. Although it looks like a medieval castle, the venue’s rooms are equipped with wireless and high-speed local area network (LAN)  connections.

Also newly renovated is the SpringHill Suites by Marriott, on the Kansas River. Its  Naismith Ballroom, for 250-person banquets, was part of the improvement project.

Dillon recommends that groups that want to take an outing first visit the Lawrence Visitors Center to watch a 20-minute film on the city and then venture downtown. “It’s kind of a gem,” she said. —