Mountain vistas, rolling hills and a central U.S. location make Springfield a popular meeting venue for gatherings of all sizes.
“Half of the country’s population lives within 500 miles of Springfield, so many of our visitors drive here,” said Susan Wade, public relations manager for the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Others fly into the Springfield-Branson Airport. And once they arrive, they find they can get a good value for their dollar.”
That value has been well documented. The Corporate Travel Index published each year by Business Travel News consistently ranks Springfield as one of the top 100 cities for convention travel based on price. Meeting planners have 6,000 hotel rooms of varying price points from which to choose, as well as a variety of venues.
The city’s largest space is downtown’s Springfield Expo Center, with 112,000 square feet of exhibition space that can be broken into three areas. The expo center is attached to the original 46,000-square-foot convention center. It is managed by the 271-room University Plaza Hotel and Convention Center across the street, which has 39,000 square feet of its own meeting space.
Rodeos, recreational-vehicle shows and concerts have all taken center stage at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds E*plex. There are three exhibit halls in the 87,400-square-foot building, with an outdoor grandstand that seats 8,500.
Trendy and retro, the recently renovated Ramada Oasis Convention Center, on the city’s north side, has a curved “ice” bar that keeps your drink cold while you chat with friends, and there’s a lot of attention to detail there, like curved door handles that mimic the hotel’s art. The hotel has 170 rooms and 21,000 square feet of meeting space.
When the meeting day ends, groups can catch a ballgame or have a picnic at Hammons Field, home of the Springfield Cardinals, the Double A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals.
The stadium can also be rented for events. Fantastic Caverns is the only cave in North America large enough to ride through; there’s no stooping or claustrophobia, and group rates are available.
Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World is the original and the granddaddy of all the Bass Pro Shops, with huge aquariums, a three-story waterfall, a NASCAR simulator and a shooting arcade.
A botanical center in an area park, about five miles from the Bass Pro Shops, is under construction and should open this fall with a large veranda for private receptions.
“People always tell me they had no idea there was so much here,” said Wade. “Springfield is a friendly, cool city with a lot to offer.”
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