By Astrid Zeppenfeld
As the third-largest city in the state of Missouri, Springfield is not only known for its offering of outdoor activities and for being home to Bass Pro Shops, which has been the number one tourist attraction in the state for decades, but it also offers a wide array of meeting venues and other opportunities for business gatherings.
Sites to See, Places to Meet
Adjacent to Bass Pro Shops is the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium, which, since its grand opening in 2017 attended by former Presidents Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush, has put Springfield, Missouri, on the international map in a big way. Many business travelers take the opportunity and bring their families with them, especially if attending an event at the White River Conference Center, which is connected to this amazing wildlife attraction and boasts 13,000 sq.ft. of meeting space.
A new Homewood Suites just opened this spring on the South end of town, with 1,380 sq.ft. of meeting space and 122 guest rooms. And there are still all the main meeting and convention centers at a planner’s disposal; the largest venue being the Springfield Expo Center with its 112,000 sq.ft. of convention space. The Ozark Empire Fairgrounds & Event Center offers 87,400 sq.ft of exhibit space as well.
University Plaza Hotel & Convention Center
If you are looking for a venue to hold multiple-day events, the University Plaza Hotel & Convention Center offers meeting space of 39,000 total sq.ft. Combined with the Expo Center next door, this includes 35 meeting rooms, with the largest boasting 45,000 sq.ft. Attendees can stay on-site in one of the 268 guest rooms. Rich Heigert, in his function as President of the 102nd Promenade Nationale of La Societé des Quarante Hommes et Huit Cheveaux (an elite Veterans’ Association), was able to procure rooms for many of the Promenade Nationale’s 500 attendees at this venue, with others staying at the Tru by Hilton and Oasis Hotel.
The national veterans’ association holds a multi-day event every year in a different location and Heigert says, “We probably wouldn’t have bid for it if it hadn’t been for the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau. I also belong to the American Legion, and we have used Springfield several times for our state conferences and conventions. Both organizations usually book the Oasis Hotel, and occasionally the University Plaza, when we hold meetings in Springfield. Melissa Evans at the CVB came to us and asked if we’d be interested in bidding for a national convention. So, she put together three hotels, and we selected the venue based on how large of a meeting area we needed. The staff at the CVB came with us to another Promenade Nationale in another city and made the bid for us.” He adds, “And we are happy we did bid because it was a great event in Springfield, Missouri.”
Dana Maugans, CDME, is the Director of Sales at the Springfield CVB, and she also suggests the updated Oasis Hotel for great meeting space, as well as the Doubletree Hotel. “There are several more hotel options, of course, with smaller meeting space,” Maugans sums up. She adds, “We have so many wonderful options; it really just depends on how much space you need or want.”
Such as Hotel Vandivort, Springfield’s only Four-Diamond Boutique property. Brenda Roling, Meeting Planner at the Missouri Concrete Association, held the association’s annual meeting with approximately 90 attendees at Hotel Vandivort in February 2022. When asked about her experience, Roling reports, “This property is a very unique venue – always looking for something different. The salespeople were very attentive to all our needs and the staff was pleasant. Makes it much easier for a meeting planner.” Roling further explains, “The downtown location was very accessible for shopping, dining, evening entertainment, etc. I know several of my attendees were very impressed with all downtown Springfield has to offer. A great way to showcase Springfield.”
More Incentives and Venues in Springfield
The Missouri Concrete Association was lucky to be able to use the Incentives Plus program currently offered by the Springfield CVB. If you haven’t heard of it and are looking to plan a meeting in Springfield this year, you have got to check it out! Roling wants other meeting planners to know, “I want to thank Lisa Perez at the CVB – the incentives they offered were great! Also, with a “reduced attrition” in these trying times was a welcome motivation for meetings planners and groups trying to come back from covid.”
For off-site meetings and other gatherings, Maugans suggests checking out the newest addition to Springfield’s diverse lineup of venues: Big Shots Golf, which opened just over a year ago. Maugans states, “It’s a really nice facility, located across the street from the Doubletree and about a block from the Oasis Hotel. They also have meeting space and it’s a really great venue for board meetings and team-building activities.”
Astrid Zeppenfeld is MEET Missouri’s editor/business development manager from St. Louis.