Ohio’s meeting horizon is looking bright.
Though current events have brought a halt to large gatherings nationwide, cities around the Buckeye State have been busy preparing new and improved venues for meeting planners.
Along Lake Erie’s shoreline, the Sawmill Creek Resort and the Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake offer new amenities amidst natural beauty. Further inland, Waypoint 4180 in Canfield caters to golfers and nongolfers alike with beautiful facilities and exceptional cuisine. Near Columbus, the Rockmill Brewery serves Belgium-style beer and bucolic views on a former horse farm. And the newly built National Veterans Memorial and Museum in Columbus has received international recognition by Architectural Digest for its innovative design.
National Veterans Memorial and Museum
Honoring our nation’s veterans from all branches of service and all eras, during peace and wartime, the National Veterans Memorial and Museum provides a powerful experience. Open in late 2018, the museum takes visitors on a dynamic journey through personal effects, multimedia presentations and interactive exhibits that honor service members and their families.
“The museum’s circular structure was built without any pillars, and its unique modernized space is a huge draw,” said Toni Hill, the museum’s special events manager. “A guided tour is included in our event contract, and our event team and volunteers work closely with meeting planners.”
The open-air Rooftop Sanctuary frames views of downtown that, Hill said, are “especially spectacular at dusk.” It accommodates up to 900 for a stand-up reception and 400 for a seated dinner. The circular Great Hall, with floor-to-ceiling windows and jaw-dropping city views, can host approximately 300 guests. Several rooms on the lower level, including Gallery 33, are used for intimate events and VIP functions of 30 to 100 attendees, with full catering services available. Outside, Memorial Grove boasts a reflecting pool, three waterfalls and more than 40 white elm trees anchored by a 350-foot limestone wall. The space is reserved for special ceremonies.
“Within walking distance, Hotel LeVeque is very upscale and part of Columbus history,” said Hill. “We often partner with groups who stay there for events and meetings.”
Sawmill Creek Resort
Undergoing a complete renovation and scheduled to open in 2021, the Sawmill Creek by Cedar Point Resort boasts beautiful Lake Erie views and peaceful walks through the adjacent Sheldon Marsh Nature Preserve. The resort’s 50,000 square feet of meeting space includes 12,000 square feet outdoors: in courtyards, on lawns, on the patio at the Sawmill Creek Golf Club, beachside for dining and in a lakefront gazebo.
“Because we’re on the lake with a natural wooded setting, we really focus on tying into nature,” said Tyler Adams, director of resort marketing and sales. “We want to make sure guests enjoy the outdoors while attending their functions.”
Indoors, the 38,000-square-foot convention center can host up to 2,000 guests or be divided into eight breakout rooms. Floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the golf course. Another 6,000-square-foot ballroom delivers more space and breakout rooms. Three on-site restaurants and an in-house catering team provide a full menu of options.
“Our biggest draw is the Sawmill Creek Golf Club that was designed by Tom Fazio and has holes that play right up to Lake Erie,” said Adams. “Plus, we have our private beach and marina with watersports like jet skiing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. We’re also located just 10 minutes from Cedar Point amusement park, so our guests receive exclusive early park entry and discounted park admission.”
Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake
Among its many amenities, the Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake recently added a zip line and canopy tour. Managed by Lake Erie Canopy Tours, the zip line is the largest aerial attraction east of Cleveland, with towers up to 60 feet high. Guests can reach speeds of 30 mph, and side-by-side double zip lines encourage racing competitions for teambuilding. An additional Adventure Course offers more than 30 timber and rope obstacles while strapped into the continuous belay system. An optional 36-foot freefall affords another teambuilding activity.
“At the zip-line area, guests can rent six-person golf carts for driving to the beach or to the mile-long entertainment strip in town,” said Daisy Hall, director of sales and marketing. “They can also rent kayaks or paddleboats for exploring Cowles Creek and Geneva State Park.”
With over 8,500 square feet of flexible meeting space in eight meeting rooms, the lodge accommodates banquets and theater-style meetings. The property offers 25 lakeside cottages and 109 lodge rooms and suites. When daily sessions close, attendees might opt for a wine shuttle tour hosted by the lodge’s certified wine specialist or a covered bridge shuttle tour. Attendees have the use of indoor and outdoor pools and hot tubs, complimentary bikes in summer, plus snowshoes and skis in winter.
“We host many corporate retreats because it’s very relaxing here,” said Hall. “They usually prefer using the Vintage meeting room and staying in the cottages.”
Waypoint 4180 overlooks the Kennsington Golf Club with floor-to-ceiling windows that slide open during good weather and an adjoining wraparound patio. Adjacent to the Courtyard Marriott Youngstown-Canfield in Westford Commons, the venue collaborates with the hotel for meetings and events. The 26,000-square-foot Grand Ballroom can be broken into six smaller rooms, and maximum seating is capped at 1,000 people.
“Guests can golf and then come for a meeting or a meal,” said Nancy Sullivan, executive director of sales and marketing. “In the evenings, we light fire towers on the patio for a dramatic backdrop.”
Open late summer, the lower level will feature five themed breakout rooms and three golf simulators, which can be used for teambuilding. The simulators will be loaded with additional games such as zombie dodgeball, baseball and football. Guests can play pool, use the putting green or relax in the bar area, with seating for 60.
Upstairs, executive chef Angus O’Hara serves an extensive menu from American to ethnic specialties and breakfast to late-night snacks or food bars after an event. On the lower level, a lighter menu will feature casual fare, such as wings and pulled pork sandwiches.
“Chef Angus O’Hara is a culinary genius,” said Sullivan. “If you can visualize it, he can make it.”
The family-owned Rockmill Brewery is on a historic 23-acre horse farm. Although the farm has been transformed into a small production brewery, its natural beauty remains untouched. Last year, the brewery added a 2,000-square-foot steel and glass tasting room that opens to an indoor-outdoor fireplace and lawn leading to a picturesque overlook. The property’s rock outcroppings are not only beautiful; they also filter the water used in its Belgian-style ales.
On the farm’s opposite end, the farmhouse sits atop a hill. Originally, it was an 1870s horse barn. Newly added are an open-air terrace, an exterior bar and a live-fire grill studio that offers everything from meats to roasted vegetables. The terrace patio overlooks the valley, the vintage chapel and the pond fed by the Hocking River that runs through the property.
“The original farmhouse is now allocated only for events, even when we’re open to the public,” said Matthew Barbee, owner and original brewmaster. “People love to explore the nooks and crannies of its different lofts and rooms. We can host a sit-down dinner for 140 people. With larger meetings, we set up a tent in the field for the meal and use the farmhouse for cocktail hour, or planners can reserve the entire property.”
Barbee said between 12 and 15 brews are available and change with the seasons. Several full-bodied and fruity beers are modeled after Trappist ale breweries. Groups can use vendors on the approved caterer and food truck list, but all alcohol must be purchased on-site.