All Roads Lead to Historic St. Charles

June 28, 2011

DestSptlt StCharles1By Heather McNeill

To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Missouri Meetings & Events, we have been looking back at the destinations we have covered, and one spot that stands out is St. Charles. So much has been worth visiting in this historic city, famous for being Missouri’s first state capital and the launching spot of Lewis and Clark’s famous expedition. Today, the restored buildings along the cobblestones of Main Street are vibrant with shops, restaurants and nightlife.

St. Charles is also incredibly accessible. The city of 65,000 residents, the third largest in the St. Louis metropolitan area after the city of St. Louis and O’Fallon, is just off I-70 and is only a 10-minute drive from Lambert – St. Louis International Airport. Although St. Charles has plenty to do within its boundaries, downtown St. Louis is also minutes away. To the southwest of the city is Missouri wine country, and towns such as Defiance and Augusta, with several sites of historical and cultural interest.

“We are definitely a great place to meet and stay,” said Carol Felzien, director of communications for the St. Charles Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB). “St. Charles is where all points meet. Whether your activity is sporting, museums, or shopping, you can get anywhere, west or east of us, in 20 to 30 minutes. It’s an easy jaunt.”

The city has also had notable developments over the past decade. These changes include the addition of the Saint Charles Convention Center and adjacent Embassy Suites Hotel in 2005, and the expansion of the Ameristar Casino with a brand-new spa and hotel in 2008. With approximately 2,400 hotel rooms, the city can host multi-day conferences with convenient access to all the historic and entertainment attractions.

A NEW CONVENTION CENTER

Over the past six years, the Saint Charles Convention Center, managed by Global Spectrum, has provided a centralized meeting space for groups as large as 3,000. The Embassy Suites Hotel right next door, and other hotels in the area that together provide 500 guest rooms within walking distance, also have made the convention center an easy choice for groups.

“We fill a strong niche for the social market and community events, local meetings and corporations, weddings, fund raisers, local charitable organizations and activities,” said Shura Garnett, general manager of the Convention Center and vice president of Global Spectrum. “We created a strong incentive for meeting planners to come to the area.”

Pam Widener, of The Home Office Meetings, is one of these meeting planners. She plans functions for the Missouri Veterinary Medical Association, which had a major event in St. Charles in 2010 and is set to return in 2012. She explained that a number of benefits appealed to her group.

“Our convention locations are chosen based upon the venue’s capability to handle our meeting needs that include an exhibit hall for 65 vendors, several large breakouts and a variety of committee meetings,” she said. “In addition, we look for properties that are capable of accommodating all, or a great majority of, our sleeping room needs and that fall within our cost requirements.”

Richard Sheets, deputy director of the Missouri Municipal League, also was satisfied with the location for his group’s annual conference. Traditionally, the two-and-a-half-day conference has been held in St. Louis, Kansas City or the Lake of the Ozarks. “We have about a thousand people, so we’re a pretty good-sized conference,” he said. “The convention center fit our group size really well.”

The Convention Center has 156,000 square feet of total space, of which 65,000 square feet is available to rent. As many as 300 booths can fit into the exhibit hall for a consumer show. A guest services area provides assistance including dining recommendations and directions to attractions. The Charter Business Cyber Café sells deli items, fresh sandwiches and pizza and has five kiosks for working on a laptop. The facility has a $1 million professional kitchen, and more than half of the convention center staff is devoted to ensuring high quality dining at the center, Garnett said.

The Embassy Suites Hotel & Spa connected to the convention center has 296 two-room hotel suites that include the amenities of refrigerators, coffee makers, two television sets, microwaves and high-speed Internet access. The hotel also offers a complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast, and manager’s reception daily. The John Q. Hammons property also has a Spa Botanica on-site.

“We are consistently in the top 10 of all Embassy Suites Hotels worldwide,” said Shawna Luetkenhaus, director of sales and marketing for the hotel. “Meeting planners who are familiar with John Q. Hammons facilities readily recognize we are part of his award-winning portfolio.”

In addition to the meeting space available at the convention center, the hotel has 6,000 square feet of dedicated function space, including nine meeting rooms that accommodate up to 300 attendees.

THE AMERISTAR CASINO

Another major facility in St. Charles is the Ameristar Casino. The venue has hosted Chrysler Corporation, the Missouri Health Care Association, and the Missouri Automobile Dealers Association, among many others, said
Reggie Dotson, regional public relations manager for Ameristar. The facility’s 22,000 square feet of meeting space can accommodate more than 500 people and offers many amenities for groups.

“All of our conference and meeting rooms have all the latest technology. There’s a business center for those business travelers who may need facilities to conduct their business,” Dotson said. “And of course we have a lot of restaurants that cater any event we may have. It’s a really beautiful space, and we have catered to a variety of clients.”

Opened in 2008, the hotel and spa are recent additions, and they have enhanced the meeting capabilities at the Ameristar as well. Many of the 397 all-suite guestrooms have views of the Missouri River. The hotel has a parking garage for 6,000 vehicles, as well as valet parking. The spa is a 7,000-square-foot facility with treatment rooms, an indoor/outdoor pool and fitness center.

A TOWN TO DISCOVER

Finally, a visit to St. Charles would not be complete without touring historic Main Street. In addition to the shops, there is an array of dining options, including the chic new restaurant and nightspot Quintessential, and the quaint Mother-in-Law House, which opened in 1981 and serves American
fare at reasonable prices in a Victorian style dining room.

“The Main Street area is a great draw,” Felzien said. “More than 80 different merchants are in the historic district and provide a range of experiences—dining, clubs, galleries and opportunities to enjoy.”

On the North end of Main Street is the Foundry Art Centre, an interactive and educational facility that connects the community to the arts. Located in an old train car factory built in the 1940s, the Foundry opened in 2004 after a $2.2 million restoration. Smithsonian-caliber, temperature controlled galleries showcase regional, national and international shows. Exhibits rotate every six to eight weeks. About 20 working art studios are located on the mezzanine level of the space, where visitors can watch artists create in a variety of media. The Foundry also has a children’s art gallery and offers classes for children and adults.

The Foundry is also a unique and beautiful site for events. The Grand Hall, a 5,928-square-foot space, seats 400 guests banquet-style with a dance floor and up to 450 without a dance floor. The Ameristar Emerging Artists’ Gallery space can seat 90 people at tables. The building can be stunningly decorated with drapery and globe lights that complement its clean-architectural lines and two-tone enameled concrete floors.

“We’ve done everything from wedding receptions and ceremonies to corporate Christmas parties, fund raisers and award ceremonies for groups from the area and even from outside the St. Louis area,” said Sarah Flentge, event administrator.

RESOURCES FOR PLANNERS

Sheets said both his group’s attendees and their spouses appreciated the St. Charles attractions. The Convention and Visitors Bureau also contributed to the Missouri Municipal League’s successful event. “They just did everything to make the convention work perfectly,” he said. “They were easy to work with but also came up with ideas. The mayor’s staff also made everybody feel at home. It’s a very hospitable place. All the city officials mentioned how hospitable, how welcoming, the city was to delegates from all across the state.”

That kind of welcome is what St. Charles has been delivering for years, and the town’s accessibility has always made it easy to attract visitors. Now, with additional event venues, it is even easier for groups to meet in St. Charles.

For more information about attractions and venues in St. Charles, visit www.historicstcharles.com, where you can also view an up-to-date event calendar and submit an RFP. MM&E

(Heather McNeill is a contributor from
Kansas City, Mo.)

Contact Information:
St. Charles Convention and Visitors’ Bureau
230 S. Main St.
St. Charles, MO 63301-2855
(636) 946-7776
www.historicstcharles.com

Saint Charles Convention Center
One Convention Center Plaza
St. Charles, MO 63303
(636) 669-3000
(877) 896-7222 (toll-free)

Embassy Suites Hotel & Spa
Two Convention Center Plaza
St. Charles, MO 63303
(636) 946-5544
www.stlouisstcharles.embassysuites.com

Ameristar Casino Resort & Spa
One Ameristar Boulevard
St. Charles, MO 63301
(636) 949-4300
www.ameristar.com

Foundry Art Centre
520 N. Main Street
St. Charles, MO 63301
(636) 255-0270
www.foundryartcentre.org

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