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New in the Heartland

The booming economy has prompted many suburban areas across America’s Heartland to build hotels and conference centers to attract new business and visitors. From Indiana and Illinois to Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota, here is a taste of the exciting meeting venues scheduled to open in 2020.

Hotel Carmichael Autograph Collection

Carmel, Indiana

The Hotel Carmichael Autograph Collection, set to open April 30, has been in the works for more than a decade. The city of Carmel wanted a meeting hotel to draw visitors to the area. The $40 million project is being built by Marriott International in Carmel’s downtown area, next door to the Palladium, a popular music hall.

“This was all part of the original master plan that came up over 10 years ago,” said Jamie Hopwood, general manager for the Hotel Carmichael. “The city has been waiting for it. It is very exciting. To be at the heart of downtown Carmel during such an exciting and expansive time is superexciting.”

Evoking styles from different eras throughout history, the hotel adds a touch of class with chandeliers throughout, even in most of its guest rooms. The hotel can host groups of up to 265 people when it opens and has 122 hotel rooms, 12 of which are suites. The property has 5,000 square feet of meeting space, which includes its most popular room, the Porter Grand Ballroom, which overlooks Carmel’s city center. The Dresser Meeting Room has 1,061 square feet of space, and the property has two boardrooms.

If groups are looking for a more personal touch to their events, the Vivante French Eatery can seat 96 people inside and 70 on its outside patio. Feinstein’s at Hotel Carmichael has 158 seats.

Canopy by Hilton Grand Rapids Downtown

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Canopy by Hilton Grand Rapids is being built in a mixed-use development called Studio Park downtown. The 155-room hotel will be connected to a high-end movie theater, restaurants, shopping and a music venue. Canopy is a new brand that is a joint partnership between Lodgco Hospitality and Hilton.

“Canopy itself is a special brand, such a new brand,” said Callie Cain, vice president of sales, marketing and revenue generation for Lodgco Hospitality. “We’re still trying to educate people about what our brand is, which is fun and very local.”

Guests who stay at Canopy will receive a local gift, and the property serves locally brewed beer, paying homage to Grand Rapids as a beer city. Event planners can take advantage of the hotel’s 2,400 square feet of meeting space. The largest space is 950 square feet on the second floor that overlooks Canopy Central, a cafe in the lower lobby. Its smaller meeting rooms are less traditional than those at other hotels.

“We don’t have a permanent boardroom, but it can be set up that way,” Cain said. “We also have modular seating that can be set up around a space, making it easier for groups to break out into workshops and breakouts.” The rooftop bar on the eighth floor looks out across downtown Grand Rapids and can be rented out for private functions.

The property is slated to open in June.

Brookfield Conference Center

Brookfield, Wisconsin

Designed on a nine-acre parcel with flexibility in mind, the Brookfield Conference Center will accommodate groups of all sizes. The center will feature an 18,000-square-foot main ballroom and a 6,000-square-foot junior ballroom that can be split into smaller configurations to serve a variety of layouts.

The conference center will be attached to the 168-room Hilton Garden Inn/Brookfield Milwaukee by a glass walkway, allowing seamless access to and from the two spaces. A state-of-the-art boardroom and a 9,000-square-foot outdoor garden will add to the conference center’s amenities, said Nancy Justman, president and CEO of Visit Brookfield.

Brookfield has 2,500 hotel rooms to fill every day, and “there’s only so much advertising we can do to bring people to Brookfield,” Justman said. That’s why the Brookfield Conference Center was born six years ago as a demand generator. A city official said the area had a lot of retail, restaurants, hotels, great parks and excellent schools. The only thing it was missing was a large-scale meeting space.

“This really does complete us as a community,” Justman said.

In the past, Brookfield was unable to accommodate conferences that bring in a couple thousand people. This development, which will open in April, will do just that. It is at the south end of Brookfield’s main mall, what is being dubbed the Brookfield Square Entertainment District, which includes a new concept theater and an adult playground with bumper cars, bowling and laser tag.

I Hotel and Conference Center

Champaign, Illinois

The I Hotel and Conference Center opened in 2008 but has always been limited in the size of groups it could accommodate. To remedy that, the hotel is adding an additional 32,500 square feet of space to its existing 38,000 square feet of meeting space. The addition is expected to open in the fall.

Anne Olmstead, marketing manager for I Hotel, said the new addition is important because “the conference center loses out on 15 to 20 events a year that would draw more than 600 people.” The expansion means the hotel will be able “to better serve the demand of our University of Illinois campus and community while drawing in new business that we haven’t been able to host before,” she said.

Until this renovation, the I Hotel’s largest function space was 7,000 square feet, which had its limitations. Champaign is a vibrant city that is home to several large businesses whose annual meetings or conferences have had to be held elsewhere. The expansion means the I Hotel can more than accommodate these types of large events, in addition to expos that require a large footprint in one room versus being spread out throughout the existing facility, she said.

The expansion includes a 12,200-square-foot exhibit hall that can accommodate up to 750 guests for a reception as well as seating for up to 1,200 guests theater style. It also can hold more than 60 vendor booths. The new addition will include two meeting rooms, a conference room and a staging kitchen.

Omni Viking Lakes Hotel

Eagan, Minnesota

The owners of the Minnesota Vikings started the Viking Lakes project a couple years ago as a way to bring in businesses and services needed by the football franchise. Earlier this year, MV Eagan Ventures, a real-estate arm of the Minnesota Vikings, named Omni Hotels and Resorts the operator of its 320-room hotel, with 35,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space that is set to open in October.

The Viking Lakes project, when it is built out, will be “quite unique in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area because of its retail aspects,” said Brian Booth, corporate director of partnerships and sales programs for Omni Hotels and Resorts. “The draw is the Minnesota Vikings and the Twin City Orthopedics Performance Center.”

The Omni’s largest ballroom is 7,500 square feet and has an amphitheater feel to it.

“It isn’t pure rectangle like you see in a lot of hotels,” Booth said. “It is a flexible meeting space with floor-to-ceiling windows that retract and open to an outer area that overlooks the lake that separates the Vikings facility and our hotel.”

The hotel can accommodate groups of up to 600 people, depending on how they use the indoor and outdoor meeting facilities. For indoor-only meetings, the optimum number is 150 to 250 people.

The Omni will have a Nordic-themed spa and offer two-story hospitality suites on every other floor of the hotel that will be great for networking. The suites will feature fireplaces, small kitchen areas and floor-to-ceiling windows.