MidAmerica casino resorts no longer have to gamble when it comes to attracting meeting professionals.
Whether it’s a mutiflag salute for our troops, fire pits on stage or an underground rave party, gaming properties are betting the house that they can compete with any big-city counterpart to impress attendees.
The event staff at FireKeepers Casino Hotel, located one hour south of Grand Rapids, Mich., is playing with fire. Meeting pros often struggle to find the right venue for the right group. FireKeeper’s staff enlists the talents of their on-staff artisans to create original themes for groups and associations.
Megan Carra, catering sales manager at the property, recalls a large payroll association that wanted to liven up their annual convention. Carra and her staff co-developed a theme with her client for what seemed an otherwise boring industry subject. The result? “Fire Up Your Payroll Knowledge!”
The team built on stage fire pits with red and orange wavering paper mache “flames” created by Ciara Sines, the property’s design specialist and convention services manager.
The culinary banquet staff contributed fire-themed homemade pastries and table dressings. What was an otherwise bland convention floor was transformed into something, err, hot!
“We recognize the importance of all events and create memorable experiences for everyone involved,” said Mike Criswell, vice president of hotel operations at FireKeepers. “Every team member takes great pride in being a part of the process to make us the venue of choice for many years to come.”
FireKeepers Casino Hotel has received the AAA Four Diamond rating for four years. Aside from Vegas-caliber gaming offerings, the property has nine meeting rooms that total 21,000 square feet and can accommodate up to 2,000 guests.
Meanwhile, the newly opened Dacey’s Taphouse has an 18-foot giant beer barrel, 50 taps of rotating craft brews and a mezzanine for VIP parties.
“What sets our team apart is our 100 percent dedication to exceeding our client’s expectations,” Carra said. “I get the pleasure to continue to work with groups who choose to return year after year.”
French Lick Resort
French Lick and West Baden, Indiana
For meeting planners, booking the French Lick Resort might just have a historical impact on the average American family when attendees choose to bring the kids and spouse along.
With its sprawling, royal campus that dates back to 1845 to its $20 million renovation in 2015, the French Lick offers more than 100 group experiences for all ages, far more than its big-city rivals.
Adina Cloud has been the director of sales at the French Lick for 34 years and knows a thing or two about memorable experiences. Two clients, a large dental association and an investment group, had traditionally held their annual meetings in major cities, not exactly family-friendly areas.
After designing full- family proposals, Cloud and her team have seen both clients come back year after year, with the kids thrilled to experience new and exciting activities.
“We find that groups are requesting more challenging outdoor teambuilding activities than ever before,” she said. “That’s why we encourage meeting professionals to invite entire families to the French Lick Resort. With so many incredible activities available, the entire family can participate. “Our events staff are family to us, and we treat our guests with the same attention and care.”
Combine that with 13 dining options, ranging from the exclusive Table One, which sits inside the kitchen as a master chef prepares a private meal for your group, to kid-friendly Pluto’s Pizzeria, and the entire family has something to sink their teeth into.
The long list of amenities includes group archery, world-class golf tournaments and the Indoor Model Aircraft Championship, where ultra-light model airplanes float for an eternity above delighted guests in the massive atrium dome at West Baden.
With 165,000 square feet of event space and all-season outdoor fun, delegates can wander endlessly and be completely enthralled at the resort’s sheer beauty.
The Pete Dye Pavilion is an indoor-outdoor hybrid log cabin that stands right off the golf course, offering a stunning backdrop for socializing.
Sometimes secrets are best kept in plain sight.
Recently, Lisa Williams, executive director of sales MGM Grand Detroit, and her team received an unusual request from a meetings client.
Williams oversees the downtown AAA Four Diamond Detroit property for all meetings and groups and has utilized every inch of the property’s 30,000 square feet of meeting space for a variety of groups and associations. But Williams never expected to utilize an underground level of a dark parking garage.
The client requested a rave party, so Williams directed her team of designers and technicians to create a truly amazing experience with a local DJ, themed graffiti, chain-link fencing, glow sticks and neon lights. The effort blended perfectly with the rave-inspired, downtown loft, pop-up feel her client was looking for.
“Like our ever-evolving nightlife and entertainment offerings, we strive to create memorable and creative experiences for meeting planners and their groups,” Williams said. “Our staff comes from diverse backgrounds within the MGM Resorts world, which allows us to offer truly unique experiences for our clients.”
Being a part of such a venerable ecosystem with sister property MGM Grand Las Vegas and others within the MGM portfolio is a valuable asset for meeting planners.
Williams also points to the MGM Grand Detroit as an active partner in the local downtown Detroit culture and economy.
The events team at the MGM Grand Detroit often includes off-property team suggestions as well as an array of in-house options.
Popular among guests are the Top Golf Swing Suite and Taps at MGM Grand, with 50 world-class craft beer taps, like Kalamazoo’s Founders Brewery, that can be pulled in a private, 100-seat dining room.
The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa is right smack, dab in the middle of the country, just nine miles from Tulsa International Airport.
Under the guidance of Stacy McKee Redden, director of sales and catering at the property, meeting professionals are given star treatment.
“We understand that event planning can be very overwhelming,” McKee Redden said. “Our team is fun, personable and accommodating. We are here to roll out the red carpet for all of our groups and make meeting planners look like a star.”
McKee Redden points to a particular client, a large military association that was greeted by flags lining the entrance and all around the property along with a red carpet to honor those who have served the country. Not only did it work well with her client, it was a big hit with hotel guests as well, she said.
Meanwhile, the Hard Rock Tulsa rolled out the red carpet for celebrities again for the prestigious Patriot Cup Invitational golf tournament last month.
The Hard Rock Tulsa features 75,000 square feet of flexible meeting space and also recently completed two new luxury additions: The Spa, offering 31 treatments, and The Pool, featuring private cabanas.
However, some groups just want to party, and the Hard Rock brand is truly recognized for its vast entertainment venues. The Joint seats 2,700 and can be booked privately. It’s considered to be the premiere venue in the region, with acts such as Hank Williams Jr. and comedian George Lopez.
Name-dropping is an accepted practice at the Hard Rock Tulsa, like the popular Toby Keith’s I Love this Bar & Grill and a local celebrity chef cook off.
“We approach every day like a rock star performing a No.1 hit live,” said Martin Madewell, senior director of marketing for the property. “When it comes to meetings and conventions, this is no different. Our staff goes above and beyond to deliver on the organizer’s expectations, so those they are hosting have a time to remember.”