If you haven’t considered St. Louis for your meeting or event before, now is definitely the time. John Bettag, Vice President of Sales with Explore St. Louis recently shared the latest offerings in his destination and what St. Louis is doing to create a fantastic meeting experience for attendees.
SUZZANNE: What makes St. Louis a great meeting destination?
JOHN: St. Louis is a vibrant community full of new and unique experiences in music, art, entertainment, restaurants and many other tourism offerings. Within our world of arts and culture lies the world-renowned symphony, ballet, opera theatre, art museums and galleries. St. Louis is also home to the 11-time World Champion
St. Louis Cardinals, the NHL’s St. Louis Blues and plenty of other events for sports fans to enjoy. Finally, we have world-class hotels and restaurants that are sure to be a hit not only with meeting planners, but their attendees as well.
SUZZANNE: What is the one thing planners are always surprised to learn about the St. Louis area?
JOHN: St. Louis is too often overlooked. Planners are surprised to find our city full of free and affordable attractions. There are delightful surprises within our scenes of creativity, music and innovation. The iconic Gateway Arch is a bucket list attraction for millions around the world, which tells the story of our nation’s westward expansion. But that’s just the beginning, as we have many spectacular venues and sights to see and explore.
SUZZANNE: What might we find you enjoying in the destination on your day off?
JOHN: There is always something to do at Forest Park no matter the season. In the summer, you can visit the oldest and largest outdoor amphitheater for a musical, in the winter you can go ice skating at Steinberg Skating Rink and the park’s many museums feature exhibits year round. Forest Park is actually larger than New York’s Central Park and includes many hidden gems: Saint Louis Zoo, Missouri History Museum, Saint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis Science Center, The Muny amphitheater and more. In fact, Forest Park was rated the number one city park by Thrillist and USA Today.
Another place you could find me is at City Museum. City Museum is one of the most unique attractions that St. Louis has to offer. It may be located in the city but “museum,” does not describe this place. This was the former warehouse of the International Shoe Company and is today a playground with a please touch attitude, full of slides, enchanted caves, and the unexpected. Pictures don’t do it justice; you must see this place for yourself!
SUZZANNE: What are a couple of your favorite places to dine or get a drink?
JOHN: Broadway Oyster Bar is known for its Cajun/Creole seafood and live music seven nights a week. We paid tribute to our place in blues history with the opening of the National Blues Museum and this restaurant is positioned within our city’s “Blues Triangle,” which also features restaurants: Beale on Broadway and BB’s Jazz Blues and Soups. If you come to St. Louis, enjoying an evening of live music is a must, and the Blues Triangle is just one of the essential stops along St. Louis’ music byway.
Three Sixty has been ranked in the top 10 rooftop bars in the world. The reason being is the majestic views of our very own 630 foot national park, the Gateway Arch and surrounding cityscape. Fire pits, delectable menu and drink options complete this phenomenal venue and the perfect place to hold a memorable off-site event.
SUZZANNE: What do you see trending in the meeting’s market? How is your CVB proactively addressing this trend or staying current?
JOHN: We recently held a “think tank” with our National Customer Advisory Board that included a variety of topics and trends throughout the industry, including the importance of safety and security planning for meetings and events.
Our advisory board members strongly recommended that dialogue and advance prep work with venue operators and organizers is critical to the success of any event. While there is, unfortunately, no one standard security plan that can be mobilized at each event as a one-size-fits-all model, open communication and attention to detail can help prepare one for the unexpected. The success of an event hinges on effective communication and collaboration between both the venues and the planners.
If you are interested in learning more about how you can better integrate and expand security efforts for your next meeting or event, visit www.explorestlouis.com/st-louis-meeting-insights.
SUZZANNE: What is an innovative service offering at the CVB?
JOHN: Not only do meetings and conventions make an important economic contribution to the St. Louis region, but by coordinating resources with Explore St. Louis and local charitable partners, groups can leave a legacy of giving well after the event. To assist meeting professionals in offering a community service option to their attendees, Explore St. Louis has developed several turn-key ways for groups to give back based on your social values, available time commitment and number of participants.
The Giving Arch is the centerpiece to Explore St. Louis’ social responsibility effort making it rewarding, fun and meaningful for meeting attendees to make a difference during their stay in St. Louis. The Giving Arch is proudly displayed on the eastern wall of the Washington Avenue lobby in America’s Center where it serves as both a collection point for donations and a reminder of the many ways groups can support a host of St. Louis-based charitable organizations. For example, attendees can benefit disadvantaged children by providing reading books, school supplies and personal hygiene items. Other activities take place outside of America’s Center with partners such as Brightside St. Louis, Better Family Life and Stray Rescue of St. Louis where attendees can roll up their sleeves in an organized group project.
SUZZANNE: What’s the latest news, developments, or events in your destination you’d like to share with planners?
JOHN: The CityArchRiver project is transforming the Gateway Arch experience by better connecting the Gateway Arch complex, riverfront and downtown St. Louis for visitors and residents alike. The Arch grounds renovation will be a boom for meeting planners with new event spaces beneath the Arch providing unique locations and memorable backdrops for meetings. The renovated museum will also be able to accommodate events and meetings, sure to leave a lasting impression for anyone in St. Louis on business or pleasure. After their meetings, guests can ride the elevators to the top of the nation’s tallest man-made monument for a 30-mile view of St. Louis and the Mississippi River. Visitors to downtown St. Louis and the Gateway Arch will also enjoy new attractions such as the National Blues Museum, Ballpark Village, Citygarden, and Busch Stadium all within walking distance from the Arch grounds.
Designed by world-renowned landscape architecture firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, the $380 million project is scheduled for full completion in 2018. The renovation project construction has included a new park over the highway connecting the Arch grounds directly to downtown St. Louis’ central business district. The new pathway provides pleasant and safe green space for pedestrians walking to the monument from the historic Old Courthouse, downtown hotels and America’s Center Convention Complex.
CityArchRiver is providing many new reasons to visit St. Louis. For more information about the plans in store for the Gateway Arch please visit www.cityarchriver.org. We encourage you to visit www.explorestlouis.com to learn more about all that St. Louis has to offer your next meeting or convention.
SUZZANNE: What size/type of meetings fit best in your destination?
JOHN: America’s Center provides more than 502,000 square-feet of continuous exhibit space with 80 versatile meeting rooms, five exhibit halls, a 28,000 square-foot ballroom, 1,400-seat Ferrara Theatre, St. Louis Executive Conference Center (ECC) and the 67,000-seat Dome at America’s Center, providing planners with unparalleled flexibility and accessibility.
The Ferrara Theatre offers an intimate, comfortable location for lectures, concerts and a variety of corporate and general presentations. The ECC is the ideal place for a small meeting of up to 100 people. With state-of the art amenities, acoustically sound meeting room suites and superior catering service, the ECC offers a professional and private environment.
The Dome at America’s Center’s imaginative engineering and architectural design, along with its physical connection to the rest of the America’s Center convention complex, allows The Dome to be easily transformed from exhibition space to field to concert and event venue.
The building has hosted numerous major conventions, trade shows and exhibitions as well as events as varied as rock concerts, motocross races and monster truck rallies. The facility has also played host to a number of large-scale amateur and professional sporting events, including the NCAA® Men’s Final Four®. The Dome at America’s Center can accommodate a variety of receptions, parties and galas.
SUZZANNE: Thank you John for taking the time to talk to us about holding a meeting in St. Louis! For more information about St. Louis or any other of the top 150+ meeting destinations, visit www.empowerMINT.com.