Location: Southern Wisconsin
Access: Interstates 39, 90 and 43; Chicago Rockford International Airport; Dane County Regional Airport; Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport; Chicago O’Hare International Airport
Major Meeting Spaces: Ironworks Hotel, Hotel Goodwin, Eclipse Event Center
Hotel Rooms: 831
Off-Site Venues: Eclipse Event Center, Beloit College Powerhouse, Beloit Club, DC Estate Winery, Ironworks Golf Lab
A lively hub of industry in the late 1800s, Beloit, Wisconsin, was home to a 1 million-square-foot ironworks that produced paper-manufacturing equipment. Today, 800,000 square feet of the old Beloit Ironworks has morphed into a complex of community businesses. Local visionaries continue to reinvent this city that hugs the banks of the Rock River.
“In the last few years, Beloit has had a renaissance,” said Matthew Bosen, director of sales and servicing for Visit Beloit. “A lot of new things have come in, a lot of renovation, a lot of development. And there’s still more coming.”
A key player in that growth is Geronimo Hospitality Group (GHG), which owns and operates a number of local hotels, restaurants and clubs. Many center on meetings. Opened in 2014 across the river from the Ironworks complex, the company’s 54-room boutique Ironworks Hotel has 3,300 square feet of meeting space and is connected to Merrill and Houston’s Steak Joint. The eatery’s walls are covered with black-and-white-photos of old Beloit. Here, local patrons revel in ancestral pride, and visitors discover Beloit’s historical culture.
“Our owner’s passion is to transform this once-vibrant community into a city of the future while preserving its remarkable Industrial Age history,” said Jeff Whitman, COO of GHG. “It’s a heady goal.”
Across the street, the Ironworks’ sister property, the Goodwin Hotel, adds 34 boutique rooms and an upscale rooftop bar with exquisite views of downtown Beloit and the Rock River.
“If you’re looking for a sexy place to meet,” Whitman said, “this is it.”
On Beloit’s drawing board is a $405 million project now awaiting final approvals. Ho-Chunk Nation Casino Project is slated to include a conference center, two hotels, an indoor water park, a casino and dining.
“The casino project will be a real game-changer for us,” Bosen said. “The facility will offer convention center spaces, the area’s largest hotel and the casino and its amenities.”
The project could start as early as this spring.
“Planners will find much-larger-city things coming that they might not expect to see in a town of 37,000,” said Bosen. “But we’ll still have that small-city, hands-on hospitality and high level of service to make sure those meetings are successful.”
A repurposed power-generating station on the Rock River, the architecturally exquisite Beloit College Powerhouse opened in February. The $38 million, 120,000-square-foot venue can accommodate up to 200 people.
The area’s largest such space, the GHG-owned Eclipse Event Center, once a food court in a mall, has been converted to a 50,000-square-foot conference/expo space for up to 1,000 attendees, 700 for dinner.
Set in lovely, rolling countryside where Wisconsin and Illinois converge, the DC Estate Winery offers a mind-easing meeting break, with tours and tastings in its hacienda-style facility. Its 5,000 square feet of space includes an indoor patio for up to 300 sippers.
Beloit has been home to an Oakland Athletics affiliate, the Beloit Snappers, since 1982. Construction of a new 3,500-seat downtown ballpark is set to start this spring, with a projected 2021 opening. Each summer, 70 home games offer affordable group pricing and loads of fun.
“The stadium will be a new downtown activity,” said Whitman. “Attendees will be able to walk to it easily from their meeting location and downtown hotels.”
Groups that book at any GHG property have access to meeting space, meals and golf packages at the company’s Beloit Club. Alongside its award-winning 18-hole course, the private club has a gorgeous 24,000-square-foot clubhouse with gathering spaces for four to 200.
An example is the Ironworks Golf Lab, a state-of-the-art indoor golf and entertainment facility that offers instruction and event space year-round. Participants’ choices include playing 80-plus worldwide golf courses and/or 14 other games, including baseball, football and zombie dodgeball.
“It’s like a life-sized Wii, where you interact with a screen, using an actual bat and ball, golf clubs, etc.,” Whitman said.
Traditional Wisconsin-style supper clubs all guarantee an expansive cocktail selection, luscious dinner and, at many, live entertainment. The retro-style Butterfly Club serves surf and turf and after-dinner brandy Alexanders; locals adore Benedetti’s ambiance, with its original bar and cash register. They flock to its Friday-night fish fry.
For suds lovers, the Beloit and Beyond Beer Trail offers a lively way to sip craft beer at local pubs and breweries. Celebrating the Badger State’s rich foodie culture, Lucy’s #7 Burger Bar uses real Wisconsin cheese in its stuffed burgers, and CheezHead Brewing hosts private parties in its brewing area. Both are downtown.