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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Wisconsin: Wausau whets appetites

Courtesy Wausau Central Wisconsin CVB

The Wausau area is home to central Wisconsin’s newest and largest conference center. Set in Wisconsin’s Northwoods, the 60,000-square-foot Patriot Center is luring groups with more than 26,000 square feet of exhibition space and a 1,000-person ballroom.

“By February, the Patriot Center, located off I-39 in Rothschild, will complete an additional 16,000 square feet of meeting space that will connect it to an existing 148-room Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites,” said Regan Pourchot, sales manager for the Wausau/Central Wisconsin CVB. “This will give meeting groups the convenience of an adjoining hotel, and since the Patriot Center is also adjacent to the Cedar Creek Mall, they can also access retail stores and a movie theater without going outside.”

The Patriot Center is one of two conference facilities in this area, halfway between Green Bay and Eau Claire. The Westwood Conference Center is also in Wausau.

Many of its meeting rooms and dining areas overlook the Wisconsin River Valley, it has a deck for 200 with the same views, and dining options include a fireside lounge for small dinner parties. All together, the center has 18 meeting rooms and two tiered auditoriums.

Although no hotels are connected to it, the center provides shuttle service to four area hotels.

Among the Wausau area’s other hotels are the 230-room Plaza Hotel and Suites, with 23,000 square feet of meeting space; the 100-room Jefferson Street Inn, with 8,600 square feet of meeting space; and two Stoney Creek hotels, the 107-room Stoney Creek Inn, with 10,000 square feet of meeting space, and the new 139-room Stoney Creek Grand Lodge, with a 50,000-square-foot indoor water park and 4,400 square feet of meeting space.

“Our central location only three and one-half hours from anywhere in the state attracts all types of meetings, as does our access off Interstate 39 and highways 51 and 29,” Pourchot said. “One of our targets is citywide groups like the Harley Owners Group that will bring 3,000 to 4,000 people here in August 2012.

“We also have a strong new emphasis on sports marketing and launched a new sports commission last summer,” said Pourchot. “We are trying to grow our sporting events and are hosting  everything from softball to speed skating to ice hockey tournaments.”

Downtown Wausau, with its revitalized Main Street, is the site of one of the Wisconsin River’s top white-water courses. Open May through September, the course has hosted national and world-class kayak competitions. Less adventurous groups can enjoy the River Edge Trail, a paved walkway that follows the river through downtown.

“When groups meet here, they find both scenic beauty and recreational opportunities throughout the Wausau area,” said Pourchot. “For example, in 2011, the Christian Motorcyclists Association will bring 300 members to our 78-acre Marathon County Park. Although they will be camping under stands of white pine trees, they will have easy access to meeting space and lots of restaurants and shopping within walking distance.”