By Astrid Zeppenfeld
To confer or not to confer – that is no longer the question, as much of the country has been fully immunized and re-opened after a long pandemic year. Meeting planners have their hands full, trying to organize all the business functions that had been put on hold for so long. We have all been looking forward to meeting in person again for so long and companies are trying to get in as much interaction as possible with existing and potential stakeholders.
From trade shows to board meetings, conventions, and company-wide retreats – everyone already has a few business events scheduled for this year and is trying to plan more, but many of us are seeing venues booked up well in advance. In order to help make scheduling your future events in Kansas as easy and streamlined as possible, we have put together a list of amazing venues for you. And, while there are certainly great convention centers in Kansas, you’ll notice that our list focuses on conference centers only. Convention centers typically focus on servicing large events and mainly trade shows, where one would expect many visitors over the course of the day. Very often, the convention center is a stand-alone building, to which visitors of the exhibit commute from their nearby hotel accommodations.
If you are planning a more intimate meeting or conference, a conference center can offer you more of a one-stop-shopping experience with often upholstered furniture in its meeting rooms, plenty of additional amenities, a higher ratio of meeting space to guest rooms, and a business retreat feel conveyed by the highly skilled, conference-planning staff they employ.
Manhattan Conference Center – Manhattan, KS
Located in the heart of The Little Apple and conveniently attached to the Hilton Garden Inn, the Manhattan Conference Center boasts over 34,000 square feet of customizable pre-function and event space. The Manhattan Grand Ballroom with 24,406 square feet is suitable for large conferences and the 12 different event rooms, ranging from 1,225 to 3,776 square feet in size, can be utilized for breakout sessions. For a company board meeting or other, more intimate business event, the Manhattan Conference Center offers a choice of three meeting rooms with a square footage of under 1,000. Cutting-edge audio-visual and media options with high-speed wireless internet coverage and catering options are provided to ensure a warm, welcoming atmosphere for all your post-pandemic business functions.
Stormont Vail Events Center – Topeka, KS
The Stormont Vail Events Center is located at the center of Topeka and contains 73,000 square feet of event space. The space can feature staging, ramps, chairs, tables, eight-foot pipe and drape, dimmable color-changing lighting, upgrade sound system, forklifts, full operations and event staffing, 85 RV hook-ups, vast on-site parking, convenient loading docks, and up to 16ft overhead doors. It can also accommodate rigging for production.
Additionally, there is a convenient indoor stair access to Hotel Topeka at City Centre. Flexible catering options are available, along with on-site catering for up to 300 people. The Stormont campus also encompasses a multi-use live entertainment arena, livestock arena, and two additional community buildings on property.
Hotel at Old Town Conference Center – Wichita, KS
At right around 10,000 square feet of overall meeting and event space, the Hotel at Old Town Conference Center in Wichita combines business and historic charm. Larger functions can be held in the 8,200 square foot ballroom, whereas smaller, more intimate meetings can be accommodated in one of the two board rooms. Guests can stay in one of the boutique hotel’s 115 guest suites when attending your corporate event. They can even bring their families as every oversized guest suite is equipped with a full kitchen.
Dole-Specter Conference Center – Russell, KS
Dole-Specter Conference Center derives its name from meshing the two meeting spaces it offers its guests: The Dole Conference Room and the Specter Conference Room, which together can accommodate up to 250 guests, but can also be booked individually to accommodate 60-100 attendees. Catering and bar services are available, with the catering options being presented by multiple local caterers, and a full-size kitchen is available for use on the event day. For lodging, the Fossil Creek Hotel & Suites is located on-site.
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- Drury Plaza Hotel Cape Girardeau Conference Center – Cape Girardeau, MO
Drury Plaza Hotel Cape Girardeau Conference Center is adjoined to the Cape Girardeau Conference Center and offers flexible meeting space to accommodate a wide variety of events. The meeting space at the hotel itself consists of 1,400 square feet; for your larger corporate events, meeting planners will find an additional over 14,000 square feet of meeting space at the Conference Center.
- Camden Hotel and Conference Center – Branson, MO
Camden Hotel and Conference Center is located in historic Branson, Missouri, and boasts a total of 14,000 square feet of meeting space for your business events set against the beautiful backdrop of the Missouri Ozark Mountains.
- White River Conference Center – Springfield, MO
White River Conference Center is actually located in Bass Pro Shops in the beautiful town of Springfield, which makes for a fascinating meeting atmosphere. Stuffed animals and heavy wooden beams decorate the building and meeting planners can “choose from several adaptable meeting and function rooms of varying sizes and décor to accommodate groups from 10 to 650”.
J.O. Sundstrom Conference Center – Lindsborg, KS
Lindsborg, a charming town rich with Swedish influence as the name suggests, is located in Central Kansas. Right in the heart of the town, the J.O. Sundstrom Conference Center gives business events a personal Scandinavian touch. If you are planning a large meeting, the Dansstalle (Dance Hall in Swedish) has room for up to 330 guests and the Banquet Hall can accommodate 200. Two smaller event spaces for 12-30 attendees can accommodate a company board meeting or similar business function. The conference center is not directly attached to a hotel; however, the website suggests a few nearby options for overnight stays.
Meridian Center – Newton, KS
16,600 square feet of meeting space is the total offered at the Meridian Center in Newton – from a 600 square feet executive boardroom to the grand ballroom with its 8,000 square feet to accommodate up to 500 guests at your business event. The center provides a full-service kitchen including beer, wine, and liquor service for your event’s catering needs. The Meridian center does not offer lodging.
Ball Conference Center – Olathe, KS
When your corporate event is held just south of Kansas City, Ball Conference Center in Olathe offers a 4,300 square feet ballroom which can accommodate up to 400 guests theater style, 300 in banquet setting, or 144 classroom style. The ballroom can be utilized as one large event space, or it can be configured into three separate, sound-insulated rooms to host your smaller business functions. For even smaller, more intimate gatherings, the Executive Boardroom or the Mabee Classroom are additional options at Ball Conference Center.
Astrid Zeppenfeld is a writer and MEET Kansas’ editor/business development manager from St. Louis.