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Kansas: Topeka reaps rewards of its meeting venues

Courtesy Visit Topeka

Topeka does a brisk meeting business in the association and government arena, not surprising considering it is the state capital and one of Kiplinger magazine’s Top 10 Cities for the Next Decade in 2010. The list highlights cities that combine affordability with the potential for economic growth and high-quality jobs.

Yet the city, which has more than 3,000 hotel rooms, is also a favorite destination in the SMERF market, particularly for religious groups, said Linda Briden, vice president of sales and marketing for Visit Topeka.

The city’s varied convention properties match its varied business. Its largest meeting venue is the 116,000-square-foot Kansas Expocentre, with its 44,500-square foot, column-free exhibition hall and its 7,500-seat Landon Arena.

Even that may not be enough; a $60 million expansion has been proposed, and it is going through approvals.

“It would add a lot of exhibit space and room for livestock and horse events,” Briden said. “It would be great for us.”

The advantage of the expo center is its connection, by all-weather enclosed walkway, to the 224-room Capitol Plaza Hotel Topeka. The hotel adds another 32,000 square feet of meeting space that includes a 5,200-square-foot ballroom.

Also near the expo center is the 197-room Holiday Inn Holidome, which has 12,074 square feet of meeting space. The Topeka Ramada, which has undergone extensive remodeling during the last few years, offers 30,000 square feet of meeting space.

As for attractions and off-site venues, the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center, which opened June 1, welcomes after-hours events. The interactive children’s museum is in Gage Park, the city park well loved by Topekans that’s also home to the Topeka Zoo, a carousel and an aquatics park.

Many groups choose to tour some of the more than 20 Underground Railroad sites in the area and the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site. Other attractions include trails along the Kansas River that meander along bluffs. “It’s really hilly, not what people think of when they think of Kansas,” Briden said.