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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Take a big bite of the Little Apple

Although decidedly smaller than its New York namesake, Manhattan, Kan., is a thriving metropolis with big plans for the future. Two downtown redevelopment projects are in the works for the Little Apple, including a north-end retail expansion to open this fall, and a south-end hotel and convention center slated to begin construction in the next few years.

Privately funded zoo is on a roll in Salina

For a zoo that receives no public funds, Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure has come a long way since it opened 10 years ago in Salina, Kan.

The accredited zoo has more than doubled the number of species represented to 105 and has added a wildlife museum, using a collector’s generous donation of taxidermied animals.

A local benefactor helped bring tigers to Salina, Kan.
Courtesy RHWA

Of most interest to meeting planners is a conference center, suited for groups of up to 150, which helps generate funds for the zoo, boosts its restaurant’s revenues and provides Salina with another meeting venue.

“Salina is at the intersection of Interstates 70 and 135 so it is great for state associations,” said Kathy Tolbert, director.

Having a meeting at the zoo “feels like you are on a little adventure,” Tolbert said. Meeting attendees enter the museum lobby, where taxidermied wildlife stands guard. The conference center, one large divisible room with a prefunction area, is decorated in subtle zoo themes, with neutral colors and giraffe-print carpet.

Rolling Hills was founded by Charlie Walker, a local resident of humble beginnings who earned his fortune by developing a chain of truck washes. Walker loves animals and began collecting exotic creatures, raising them on the land where the zoo now stands.

The decor at the zoo’s conference center is a low-key safari theme, with giraffe-print carpet and wildlife art.
Courtesy RHWA

Before long, said Tolbert, everyone in town was going “to Charlie Walker’s barn” to see the animals. Walker decided his hometown needed a zoo, and he underwrote a significant portion of the zoo’s cost. — Vickie Mitchell

(785) 827-9488

“We’re so excited about all the new growth and development we have coming,” said Summer Dierks, convention sales manager for the Manhattan CVB. “We will be able to offer our meeting business 30,000 square feet of new convention center space, 120 new hotel rooms and a 400-stall parking garage.”

Like the big Manhattan, little Manhattan prides itself on entertainment.
Courtesy Manhattan CVB

This northeast Kansas town of 50,000 already has multiple meeting options, including the 9,000-square-foot Houston Street Ballroom and the new 16,000-square-foot Purple Wave Event Center, and two newly renovated convention hotels: the 197-room Clarion Hotel, with 12,000 square feet of meeting space, and the Holiday Inn at the Campus, with 113 rooms and 9,321 square feet of meeting space.

That campus is Kansas State University, a 22,000-student, 145-year-old university that gives Manhattan an array of cultural attractions as well as the largest sports and meeting facilities in the city.

When 1,000 members of the Kansas Farm Bureau gathered in Manhattan for the bureau’s annual meeting last November, they met in the 250,000-square-foot Kansas State Student Union and toured the Kansas State University Gardens, as well as the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art.

“Although a large number of our meetings are associated with K-State, we also market to outside groups,” said Craig Johnson, assistant director of operations at the student union. “Our facilities, including the 24,000-square-foot Kansas State Alumni Center, are available year-round on a first-come, first-served basis.”

The Kansas Farm Bureau conference was among the larger gatherings in Manhattan, and it used all of the city’s hotels, including its 11 limited-service properties.

“Although we can accommodate groups of that size, our average meeting is about 200 people,” said Dierks. “We have a great location off I-70, and we draw corporate meetings, military groups affiliated with nearby Fort Riley Army post, and state and regional youth sporting events.”

K-State’s sports facilities are a draw for competitions.
Courtesy Manhattan CVB

Recognizing the economic impact of the sports market, the Manhattan CVB maintains a sports sales department that works with the Manhattan Area Sports Council and Kansas State University.

“When they are available, we can use K-State facilities for events like the recent Manhattan Classic Basketball Tournament, which brought 70 elite high-school basketball teams to the 14,000-seat Bramlage Coliseum,” said Dennis Toll, tourism sales manager for the Manhattan CVB.

City sports facilities include the Eisenhower Baseball Complex, where the American Legion’s Class 3A State Baseball Championships were held this May, and the Colbert Hills golf course, which is ranked as one of the top public golf courses in Kansas.

“We will be opening a clubhouse at Colbert Hills by the end of the year in order to be able to bid on collegiate tournaments and professional golf tours,” said Toll.

“And, in 2010, 200 to 300 bowlers will be here each weekend from January through May to participate in the Kansas State Bowling Tournament at our 32-lane Zuckey Bowl.”

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