Great Space, Entertaining Events Harrah’s St. Louis Shows Its Hand

September 1, 2010

Cover Harrahs1

By Heather McNeill

It’s easier to please attendees when all your needs are met by one location. When you know rooms, restaurants and activities are all on-site, you can focus on creating productive meetings or getting your organization’s message heard. But how do you ensure most people are going to be happy with the all-inclusive locale you choose? First, it had better have great service. And second, there’d better be a lot to do. Harrah’s St. Louis, in Maryland Heights, Mo., can meet both demands. It’s a customer-oriented casino and hotel, abounding with food, fun, and activities. Opened in 1997, Harrah’s 455 guest rooms and 47 luxury suites accommodate guests from all over the world. The casino’s slot machines and table games provide some of the best gaming in the area. Entertainment facilities bring in national entertainment acts, and eight restaurants feature a wide assortment of cuisine. “There is so much to do here under one roof, compared to a more traditional hotel space,” says Michelle Good, manager of hotel sales and banquets. “We have so much to offer. We’re a one-stop shop for planners.” In 2007, the casino introduced a new buffet area after a $17.2 million renovation. Around this same time, Harrah’s conference facilities got even better with the brand new, addition of a $3.1 million St. Louis Conference Center. Now, with approximately 8,000 square feet of state-of-the-art meeting space and plenty of room for outdoor events, Harrah’s St. Louis has become one of the most versatile meeting spots in the region.

The St. Louis Conference Center comprises two meeting areas that accommodate groups of 10 to 300. In the main conference space, groups of 260 can be seated at round tables or 205 in a classroom configuration. The space is divisible into four breakout sections or can be combined with a 1,900-square foot rotunda. Another meeting space on the property, the 1,600-square-foot New Orleans Room, is also divisible into two sections or can be used whole for meetings of up to 150 people. As you would expect of these state-ofthe- art facilities, audio-visual packages are extensive, and all kinds of equipment are available on site. Several food and beverage packages are available for full- or half-day meetings. A 24/7 automated business center is also convenient for planners and attendees.
Tammy Wheaton, regional supervisor for Brundage Management, has held several events at Harrah’s St. Louis, including several meetings of 30 to 100 members of her regional staff. She says she loves the convenience of the St. Louis Conference Center’s technological features, including built-in projectors, and the quality of the food her groups have received in the space. Wheaton appreciates that the staff “never seems frustrated” about fulfilling requests. She says at one event, Harrah’s staff kept her entertainment, Mickey Mouse, stocked with beverages during his breaks and kept him well hidden from the rest of the group at these times. Wheaton also says she likes the staff’s personalized approach. “They always welcome us back and remember our faces and names,” she says.
Jan Bignall, director of development for the  rthritis Foundation, Eastern Missouri Chapter, also has planned several events at Harrah’s St. Louis and has used some of the other event spaces on the property, which include more than 730,000 square feet of outdoor space and the complex’s main entertainment venue for live touring acts, the VooDoo Lounge. These areas are often used for large charity gatherings, car shows, and wedding shows. Bignall plans the Jingle Bell Run, an annual 5K run and 1-mile walk, at the casino complex. November 21 will mark the fifth year of the event. She says in the first couple of years, her group used the ballroom and banquet spaces for pre-function and post-race events. But the run grew to almost 1,500 participants, it has used the casino complex’s main entrance for pre-run registration, and the Voo-Doo Lounge for a postrun awards ceremony. Over the years, the full Harrah’s staff, from catering to security, has met with Bignall to make arrangements for her event. “They were also willing to host a wrap-up meeting where we were able to talk about what worked, and areas to improve upon in following years,” she says.

Lindy Kirsch, advertising and public relations manager for Harrah’s St. Louis, says this personalized service underlies the philosophy of the hotel and casino. “Our tagline is ‘We take fun seriously.’ We’re very serious about making sure the customer has a great experience,” she says. Part of this pleasant guest experience is the opportunity to try all of the complex’s eight restaurants, which include the new and improved Eat Up! Buffet. At this buffet, guests will find seven distinct serving stations offering different fare, including comfort food, salads, and breakfast items. “One of the favorites is the dessert station with our signature cupcakes, sugar-free desserts, gelato—all prepared in house by our bakery,” Kirsch says. Harrah’s St. Louis also has made exciting partnerships with two area restaurants to provide its guests with a distinctly regional dining experience. One of these is with Charlie Gitto’s restaurant, a St. Louis landmark in the city’s Italian district, the Hill. Like its original location, Charlie Gitto’s at Harrah’s serves up hearty Italian American meals such as spaghetti with meatballs, sixlayer lasagna and chicken spiedini in an upscale atmosphere. Another partnership has brought the restaurant of St. Louis native and famous rock and roller Sammy Hagar to the casino complex. Sammy’s Beach Bar & Grill is unique not only because of its menu, American cuisine with island flair, but because 100% of the proceeds from Hagar’s portion of the restaurant are donated to St. Louis community children through the Hagar Family Foundation.

As you would expect from a Harrah’s, groups also will have many opportunities for fun and games in the 120,000 square feet of casino space. Attendees will find more than 2,800 slot and video poker machines and 75 table games. In the St. Louis Poker Room, they have the opportunity to play games such as Texas Hold ‘Em and No Limit, and qualify to win a seat in the national World Series of Poker tournament, held every summer in Las Vegas. “We’re the only poker room in St. Louis to offer that,” Kirsch says. Other attractions attendees will find at Harrah’s St. Louis are the iBAR, a blackjack bar on the casino floor, and the VooDoo Lounge. Both provide live entertainment. On weekends, attendees can find dancing, singing, and karaoke on the iBAR stage. The VooDoo Lounge is best known for nightclub atmosphere and touring musical acts. Good says planners can incorporate the casino atmosphere into their events. For example, they can participate in poker instruction offered at the casino or invite a dealer to visit during an event. At the same time, she emphasizes that the casino atmosphere doesn’t have to be a part of the event at all. In fact, attendees don’t even have to walk through the casino floor to get to the meeting and event spaces. The meeting space and hotel are attached to the casino complex, but they are located in distinct, separate areas.

Harrah’s St. Louis makes it easy to choose the features you want in an event. And as you plan your meeting, you’ll be able to take advantage of amenities and rewards. If you will have overnight guests, several hotel packages are available, and group rates will apply when you book a minimum of 10 rooms. Harrah’s St. Louis has free parking including valet, and a complimentary airport shuttle, which make traveling to the site easier for attendees. The casino and hotel also offer transportation service to locations around West County and throughout the St. Louis area. The company’s recognition program, Total Rewards, provides additional benefits. Credits earned can be redeemed on the casino floor, in the hotel, or for guest services at any other Harrah’s-affiliated location. “What’s earned in St. Louis may be redeemed in New Orleans or Las Vegas for anything your heart desires, from a buffet, to an overnight stay, to actual cash,” Good says. And now, planners can even earn credits from meetings and events at Harrah’s. Finally, when you choose to plan an event at Harrah’s St. Louis, you will be assured that the company makes environmentally friendly choices.
In fact, Harrah’s is the first gaming company to join the Environmental Protection Agency’s Global Climate Leaders Program. It has adopted green initiatives including a company-wide plan to recycle five tons of waste a week and efforts to power down lights and equipment when they are not in use. Good says this attention to conserving resources also extends to food prepared at meetings and items recycled at large events. All of the amenities and activities at Harrah’s St. Louis may not only give you and your attendees more opportunities for fun and productive meetings, they may increase the numbers at your next event. Good has seen it happen. “Attendance tends to go up,” she says. “It’s fun and exciting for planners and attendees to have so much to do.”   MM&E

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

Harrah’s St. Louis

777 Casino Center Drive
Maryland Heights, MO 63043
Phone: (800) 599-6378
Fax: (314) 770-8254
E-mail: [email protected]

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