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CONNECT FAITH – Embracing Arch City

Columbus, Ohio, places inclusivity and amenity rich resources in a compact footprint that meeting planners love.

Event planners are saying hello to Columbus in large numbers as Ohio’s largest and fastest-growing city flexes its meetings muscles.

Geography makes a solid case for Columbus-based events, as more than 50 percent of the U.S. population is within a day’s drive or one-and-a-half-hour flight. Upon arrival at John Glenn International Airport, visitors are a short 10-minute drive from downtown and its 4,250 hotel rooms.

Brian Ross, president and CEO of Experience Columbus, notes that hospitality is a community-wide focus in Columbus, with more than 2,000 local industry associates holding an active Certified Tourism Ambassador (CTA) designation. “The number of CTAs is one of the highest levels of any U.S. city, and this pays dividends for our visitors,” says Ross.

He’s not the only one singing his city’s praises. In 2016, J.D. Power and Associates named Columbus the “Best Visitor Experience Destination for a Midwestern City.” Read on to see why.

Groupthink

The following groups have met in Columbus in 2016 or 2017.

Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly

Christian and Missionary Alliance General Council

United Pentecostal Church International

North American Youth Congress

African Methodist Episcopal Church Connectional Lay Organization Biennial.

Center Stage

Anchoring events large and small is the newly renovated Greater Columbus Convention Center. In June, GCCC emerged from a $140 million renovation primed to increase the center’s already high rate of 61 percent repeat business, according to GCCC general manager, John Page.

“The project was conducted over 22 months in 24 separate phases, meaning the oldest portion of the center is barely two years old,” Page says. “Our design has incorporated an engaging aesthetic with wooden benches, soft natural light and large communal areas, making it convenient for attendees to remain on-site to connect and do business without returning to their hotel.”

GCCC has 373,000 square feet of exhibit space, 10,000 square feet of outdoor event space, 75 meeting rooms and three flexible ballrooms including the split-level Battelle Grand. (At 74,000 total square feet, it’s the largest ballroom in the state.) Page notes GCCC holds around 350 events annually, with a sweet spot of 3,000 to 10,000 attendees.

High-tech amenities include a 60-ft. video board, touch-screen kiosks delivering updates, Open Table dining reservations and entertainment information. Food-service provider GCC also has specially equipped rooms for nursing mothers.

Sleep On It

A range of affordably priced accommodations places Columbus high on planners’ lists. Most Columbus properties offer more than half of their room inventory with two beds per room (double/double or queen/queen), making double- and quad-occupancy accommodations an option for self-paying attendees.

These three full-service are directly connected to the GCCC via sky bridge:

Hyatt Regency Columbus With 631 guest rooms (420 double/doubles), the Hyatt is the largest property by rooms and has the largest hotel ballroom (15,000 square feet) in the city. The Hyatt has 63,000 square feet of function space. All guest rooms were renovated in 2012, and the GCCC connector was part of the just-completed convention center renovation.

Hilton Columbus Downtown Built as an anchor hotel for the city and opened in 2012, the Hilton has upscale dining, a fitness center, swimming pool and main lobby with an open atrium and 15,000-sq.-ft. The 532-room property includes 228 queen/queen accommodations and 32,000 square feet of flexible space. President Obama was the Presidential Suite’s first occupant during his 2012 campaign.

Crowne Plaza Columbus Downtown The Crowne has 375 guest rooms, including 250 with two queen-sized beds. The Crowne has 10,000 square feet of flex space plus a street-level patio for after-hours networking.

 Easy Walking, Global Dining

Several  contiguous distinct walkable districts surround the GCCC with vibrant local dining, hip galleries, shops and entertainment.

Short North Arts District has scores of dining options and one-of-a-kind shops to browse. Try Guild House, the showpiece eatery of Cameron Mitchell, a local restauranteur with more than a dozen concepts in town.

Meeting attendees mingle with locals at Columbus’s iconic North Market. This unofficial cafeteria of the city features spice emporiums, green grocers and global eats from perogies and German bratwurst to Vietnamese pancakes. Want to host a taste of Columbus for your group? The market can coordinate an afterhours event for up to 2,000.

Columbus’s Riverfront district, the Scioto Mile, is the community’s living room with welcoming green space, parks, fountains shopping and restaurants. Central attractions along the mile are COSI (Center of Science and Industry) and the National Veterans Memorial & Museum, coming in summer 2018.

Case Study

2016 Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly

Columbus wasn’t even on Jan Sneegas’s radar as she initially considered sites for the 2016 Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly. Sneegas, UUA’s director of general assembly and conference services, was encouraged to explore Columbus by a colleague who’d just hosted a group here.

“We did a site visit and were blown away with what we found,” says Sneegas. “Columbus is clearly a city on the rise.”

The Assembly had 3,780 attendees with 1,350 room nights on peak, according to Sneegas. Properties used included: the

“There is such a wide variety of hotels and price points within proximity of the convention center,” says Sneegas. “Columbus takes walkability to a new level, not only from an accommodations perspective but also food and beverage. I was also struck by the [lodging] value Columbus offers. We used OSU dorms as a very economical option.”

Sneegas praised the Experience Columbus staff for their close collaboration with UUA and their citywide connections.

“We do a witness event every year and had planned to do this at the State House just a few blocks from the convention center, which Experience Columbus facilitated,” Sneegas says. “While the weather didn’t cooperate, Experience Columbus was extraordinarily professional, service oriented and helpful in assisting us.”

When it comes to dining, Columbus was a big hit with UUA attendees.

“What is so stunning about Columbus are the multiple (to the convention center) options,” Sneegas says. “North Market is exciting [with offerings like] Hot Chicken Takeover, and The Pearl [from local restaurateur Cameron Mitchell] is a nice mid-range option. Columbus represented some of the best dining options of any city we’ve been to.”

UUA attendees were impressed with Columbus. “They were thinking sleepy Midwest college town, and were surprised at how hip, cosmopolitan and friendly it is,” says Sneegas. “Columbus is a gem and an underappreciated venue.”

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