Meet in Chicago
This Midwest behemoth has almost as many nicknames as it does great meetings venues
This Midwest behemoth is an ideal “meet-in-the-middle” destination with almost as many nicknames as it has great meetings venues
Chicago – the city that boasts so many names – is as giant and mercurial as the great Lake Michigan which defines its rough edges. One moment the lake is placid and blue with sail boats plying its waters and the next, it’s mean and green with frothy whitecaps and a feisty attitude. Chicago’s nicknames are legend:‘The Windy City,’‘The City That Works’and‘The City of Big Shoulders.’ You can call the Toddlin’Town all of these names, but‘Chi-town’(shy-town), as it’s affectionately called by locals, is‘Second City’to none.
Founded as Fort Dearborn on the banks of Lake Michigan in 1803 and incorporated as a city in 1837, this dynamic metropolis has been forever reinventing itself since the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Legend has it that Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked over a lantern, sparking a fire that destroyed the central downtown district and burned a third of the remaining city to the ground.
Because it’s in the heartland of the Midwest and the unofficial capital of the Central Time Zone, The City That Works is a great place for business travelers to congregate. For those flying in from the east and west, Chicago is an ideal“let’smeet-in-the-middle”destination that spreads out the jetlag evenly. By auto, it’s an easy drive within a 500-mile radius of 12 major cities, including Toronto.
Sophisticated and urbane today, Chicago is a pancake flat expanse of asphalt with skyscraper spikes and a people on the move. More than 400 major corporations call it home. Ethnically diverse with a population of 2.9 million, you’ll find global cuisine and warm hospitality. The‘City of Neighborhoods’has 75 officially recognized enclaves, each one possessing a proud heritage and unique flavor. Surrounded
Chicago today has sustainable buildings than any other US city
by a robust collar of expanding suburbs that eat cornfields for breakfast, the metropolitan area which includes parts of Indiana and Wisconsin has a population of 9.5 million, making it the third largest in US rankings.
Never to be outdone, Chicago touts itself as a world-class global city for meetings, incentives, conferences and events. Mayor Jane Byrne (the city’s first and only female mayor) in the late 1970s set out to soften its smokestack, working-class image and tough-guy, Al Capone reputation. In her one and only term, she transformed 3,300 foot-long Navy Pier from an aging World War I era cargo center into a premier asset, attracting tourism and events.
About a decade later, Mayor Richard M. Daley (son of one of Chicago’s most legendary mayors, Richard J. Daley, aka “Hizzoner”) set out to establish Chicago as one of the greenest in America. From green museums and green architecture to eco-friendly O’Hare Airport, which boasts solar panels and the world’s first aeroponic garden providing fresh produce and herbs year-round for its restaurants, Chicago today has more LEED-certified, sustainable buildings and the most green rooftops of any US city. From City Hall to McDonalds, 200-plus green rooftops
covering 2.5 million square feet are helping keep Chicago’s air fresh.
It’s green at street level too. Chicago is business-friendly and known for being meticulously clean. From the“Gold Coast” to Michigan Avenue’s“Magnificent Mile” to Millennium Park and“South Loop,” Chicago abounds with first-class hotels, restaurants, shops and sights to see, all dressed up within a short walking distance from its spectacular lakefront and beautiful tree-lined parks.
The City of Big Numbers
With major convention centers and showrooms like time-honored institutions McCormick Place Convention Center and The Merchandise Mart, and a multitude of other meetings and convention venues scattered throughout the metro area, Chicago is a city that works when it comes to hosting business travelers from around the world. In May 2012 Chicago hosted the 25th NATO SUMMIT, and city leaders continue to work hard to win a bid to host the World Olympics.
International tourists are attracted to Chicago’s core institutions and renowned attractions like Broadway in Chicago, The Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry, the Art Institute of Chicago and Shedd Aquarium.“Chicago provides unparalleled cultural and entertainment options through every season,”says David Mosena, president and CEO of the Museum of Science and Industry.
Other popular and less institutional year-round attractions include tons of night club venues for all kinds of music, including classic Chicago Blues, scores of comedy clubs inspired by famous Second City of Saturday Night Live fame, over 200 critically acclaimed theatre companies which afford budding actors the chance to hone their craft before heading off to Broadway or Hollywood, countless ethnic restaurants, large professional sports venues, and art galleries galore.
Besides its big name talent, Chicago’s a city of big numbers. Standing majestically at 1,729 feet, the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. Chicago boasts some of the world’s best food, culture, spirit and architecture.You can find restaurants, fast food joints and bars on most every street. According to the US Census Bureau there are 16,564 eating establishments and 1,630 watering holes and nightclubs.
As proof of its gravitas as a tourist and meetings mecca, Chicago is critically acclaimed as having some of the best (as well as largest) hotels in the nation. In 2012, 1.8 million room nights were booked into 110,000 guest rooms in the Chicagoland area. There are more than 120 hotels and 35,000 hotel rooms in the central business district alone, all within five miles of mammoth McCormick Place, the largest convention space in the nation. This immense facility has over 2.6 million square feet of exhibit halls, 170 meeting rooms and 600,000 square feet of meeting room space. Hotel occupancy at the end of 2012 was 75.2 percent, matching the previous record set in 2007.
“Chicago is clearly among the premier visitor destinations in the world,”boasts Don Welsh, president and CEO of the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau. Average daily room rates of $177.23 in 2012 were up 5.6 percent compared to the year before. As evidence of its impact on the local economy, Welsh says the visitor industry is directly responsible for 128,000 jobs, $12 billion in direct spending and $725 million in tax revenue for the city. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has set a Visitors goal of 50 million annually by 2020 and a Top Five Cities national ranking for number of international visitors.
With 2,750 daily inbound/outbound flights to nearly 200 worldwide destinations, flying into Chicago’s O’Hare or Midway Airport provides a visual image of why The City That Works works so well. It’s a giant grid laced with rapid transit, bus routes, major freeways and highway arteries with diagonal thorough-fares that efficiently crisscross the city.
Left your GPS at home? No need to worry. With the Lake and its long strand of beaches staking out Chicago’s eastern boundary, all you need to know to get from one place to another is the address and street name along with the number of its intersecting street and you’ll know exactly where you’re going and how many miles (eight blocks to a mile) it is from the downtown core, which is addressground zero. So go and have fun exploring without the worry of getting lost.
Chicago has plenty of mammoth venues to choose from, but if you want to make a memorable impression on your guests, perhaps a more eclectic meeting place will give your brand that extra boost that is worthy of the time and expense. BT