Meetings & Conventions - On Campus - October
Rendezvous in the Rockies: The University of
Close quarters aside, college venues can be smart for
By Martha Cooke
The hallowed halls of learning are for rent,
touting attractive prices, a stimulating atmosphere and, in many
cases, significant tax breaks. Rooms are ready-made for large
lectures, small seminars or even hands-on labs. And many have
modern audiovisual equipment and on-site technicians who can
facilitate videoconferencing and satellite downlinking.
The downsides, however, are the same woes that plague students:
Sleeping rooms often are shared, amenities are limited to a
paper-towel dispenser in the (also communal) bathroom, and the
cuisine, as such, is served cafeteria-style. Despite such factors,
a growing number of planners are taking advantage of college and
university meeting spaces. According to the Fort Collins,
Colo.-based Association of Collegiate Conference and Events
DirectorsInternational, college meetings have grown into a $1.5
More than 1,500 colleges open their facilities to groups, says
Michele Nichols, publisher of the annual Guide to Unique
Venues (Amarc; Minturn, Colo.; $39.95). Cancellation and
attrition fees often are lower at universities than at typical
hotels and conference centers, she adds. For low-cost
entertainment, both town and gown offer possibilities. Most college
towns feature venues and recreation options that cater to the
budget-minded student population.
Yet, a campus meeting isn’t always a smart choice, says Jackie
Willis, senior director of conference management for the
Washington, D.C.-based Public Broadcasting Service. “Be sure the
group is appropriate for that kind of atmosphere,” advises Willis,
who brought a meeting to American University this past summer.
“It’s more casual.” Following is a sampling of universities with
Residential Life & Housing Services
Even the cafeteria reflects the diversity of the student population
here. The Terrace Dining Room resembles a mall food court and
features two grills and a stir-fry station, as well as a section
catering to vegetarians and vegans. For summer programs, the menu
can be tailored to the planner’s wishes.
Meeting/sleeping facilities: Facilities are
available mid-May through mid-August. The Bender Arena offers 6,000
square feet of exhibit space, and 30 classrooms, the largest of
which seats 400, are available. Up to 3,364 guests are accommodated
in a combination of 1,466 single, suite-style and dormitory
Taxes: Sales tax of 5.75 percent is added to
accommodations, services (including A/V but not F&B) and
meeting room rental. A 10 percent food and beverage tax is added to
food and catering services. The local room tax of 14.5 percent also
applies to accommodations.
Transportation: Ronald Reagan National Airport,
seven miles outside of Washington, D.C. Transfer cost by taxi, $16;
by shuttle, $15
Off-site venues: All 15 Smithsonian
institutions, which include the Air and Space, Art, and Natural
History museums, have free admission. Tickets to tour the White
House and the Capitol building are free but are issued on a
first-come, first-served basis. Admission to the Washington
Monument, Jefferson Memorial and Lincoln Memorial are free as well.
The university provides free shuttle service to the metro.
The university is set in the
corporate hotbed known as Research Triangle Park — defined as the
triangle between the campuses of Duke University, the University of
North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University.
The area is home to a diverse array of businesses and industries,
including IBM, Cisco, Glaxo Wellcome and the USDA Forest
Meeting/sleeping facilities: All groups must
have a faculty sponsor, typically arranged through the conference
services department. Duke has 3,100 sleeping rooms with beds for
approximately 5,000, although housing is limited during the
academic year. Accommodations include dormitory-style rooms and
one- to three-bedroom suites. Some buildings are
The Bryan Center offers 5,200 square feet of exhibit space.
Programs requiring Internet connectivity and satellite downlinking
are accommodated at the Fuqua School of Business (919-660-6403),
which hosts groups of up to 120 in four classrooms and 19 breakout
rooms. Duke’s largest venue, the Cameron Indoor Stadium, seats
1,200 theater-style on the auditorium floor.
Up to 480 can take over West Campus Dining Hall, which features
Duke’s traditional Gothic architecture. Receptions of up to 1,000
are held on the lawn in front of the university chapel. The new
Wilson Recreation Center hosts 650 for a buffet.
Taxes: Sales tax, 6 percent, is applied to
housing and food service. No room tax is charged. Transportation:
Raleigh-Durham International Airport, 25 miles. Transfer cost by
taxi, $15; by shuttle, $14
Off-site venues: Discounts are available at the
on-campus Duke Primate Center. The Duke University Gardens and
Museum of Life and Science also are open for group use. Discounts
are available for all Duke sports except men’s basketball, for
which there is rumored to be a five-year waiting list. Reservations
for campus sporting events should be made at least a year out.
San Antonio, Texas
Continuing Education & Conferences
Kosher Tex-Mex. It sounded like a tall order for this southern
Texas facility, but the catering staff at Trinity University rose
to the challenge recently when the Coalition for the Advancement of
Jewish Education brought a group of 1,600 for a weeklong
conference. South-of-the-Border parties also are popular. For more
formal affairs, plated banquets for up to 120 can be held in the
university’s Skyline Dining Room, which features a view of the
Meeting/sleeping facilities: Accommodations at
Trinity are suite-style, with each two-bedroom unit sharing a
bathroom. The sleeping facilities were ranked third in the country
in 1998 by the Princeton Review, a college-life benchmarking group.
This year, Winn Residence Hall is undergoing more than $1 million
in renovations and should be available for groups by summer
Meeting rooms are available year-round; sleeping rooms are
available from May through August. The school’s 900 guest rooms
sleep up to 1,800. Trinity has 100 classrooms and conference rooms
available for groups, including the 2,865-seat Laurie Auditorium.
The athletic center has 14,000 square feet of exhibit space. All
buildings are air-conditioned.
Taxes: Sales tax of 7.75 percent is added to
accommodation and meal costs; the San Antonio room tax of 16.75
percent is waived for educational groups and meetings, as well as
for tax-exempt (nonprofit) groups. Transportation: San Antonio
International Airport, eight miles. Transfer cost by taxi,
Off-site venues: The 2.5-mile cobblestone
Riverwalk along the San Antonio River is lined with cafés,
restaurants and boutiques. The outdoor Arneson River Theatre
features musical, theatrical and cultural performances, viewed from
a tiered lawn, throughout the summer. Group rates are
University of Colorado
About an hour northwest of Denver, the University of Colorado is
within walking distance of downtown Boulder, known for its outdoor
attractions and laid-back local culture.
Meeting/sleeping facilities: All facilities are available early
June through early August. A total of 2,600 residence-hall rooms
sleep up to 4,300 for summer meetings. The on-campus Coors Event
Center has 11,200 square feet of exhibit space. Groups have access
to about 30 classrooms and meeting rooms, five of which are wired
for the Internet. An on-site conference center offers 9,267 square
feet of meeting space and 108 hotel-style rooms (at higher rates
than the residence hall); this property is available to groups
Taxes: Sales tax of 9.6 percent is added to
accommodations, meals and meeting space charges. No hotel tax is
Transportation: Denver International Airport,
50 miles. Transfer cost by taxi, $60; by shuttle, $18
Off-site venues: More than 200 miles of biking
and hiking trails offer a ready-made setting for team-building
exercises. The Pearl Street mall is a four-block, pedestrian-only
section of downtown, lined with all the trappings of a
counterculture gone capitalist: outdoor cafés, coffeehouses and
colorful street performers.
University of California,
Planners with large groups looking to soak up some sun and
Hollywood atmosphere can head to UCLA.
Meeting/sleeping facilities: All of the
facilities are available from mid-June through mid-August. A total
of 1,860 dorm and suite-style residence-hall rooms houses groups of
up to 3,720. In addition, 640 hotel-style rooms with private bath,
daily maid service and air conditioning are available at higher
prices. Pauley Pavilion seats 13,000 and offers 40,000 square feet
of exhibit space for shows; the facility hosts up to 1,200 for
banquets. The outdoor Drake Stadium seats up to 4,000. For dining,
Royce Quad seats up to 800. Two 6,000-square-foot ballrooms are
available for functions.
Taxes: Sales tax of 8.25 percent is added to
food costs but not to accommodations or meeting space rentals. The
local room tax is not charged to groups.
Transportation: Los Angeles International
Airport, 12 miles. Transfer cost by taxi, $18-$20
Off-site venues: The J. Paul Getty Museum is on
campus, featuring collections from Roman antiques to photography;
admission is free. The university’s in-house transportation
department can arrange tours of the area for groups of up to 600.
Westwood Village, an open-air mall, is a 15-minute walk from the
campus and features a variety of dining and entertainment
New Haven, Conn.
Yale opens its ivy-covered doors to groups during the summer
months. The university’s Gothic and colonial architecture, coupled
with its hallowed reputation, create at atmosphere that can inspire
Meeting/sleeping facilities: Meeting facilities
are available from mid-May through early August; sleeping rooms are
available from mid-June through the first week in August. Some 50
classrooms are open to groups. The law-school auditorium seats 500.
A 100-suite complex sleeps 200; additional accommodations are based
Taxes: State sales tax of 6 percent applies to
food only. Local room tax does not apply.
Transportation: Bradley International Airport
(Hartford), 42 miles. Transfer cost by taxi, $75-$85; by shuttle,
$20. Shuttle from New York’s JFK and LaGuardia Airports, $35
Off-site venues: Both the Yale Art Gallery and
British Art Museum have free admission. Discounts to the Peabody
Natural History Museum are available through Greater New Haven
Convention & Visitors Bureau. The Carousel area at Lighthouse
Point Park Pavilion can be rented out for receptions of up to
venues are more comfortable than others. Shari Long,
program manager and senior analyst for the event-planning firm
Strategic Alliances Inc., has arranged a number of meetings at
schools, often for government agencies. Although cost is a
priority, she says, so are creature comforts.
“Our professionals would not like being in a
ratty dorm room or sleeping four to a room,” Long notes. Planners
shouldn’t expect luxury, but it is possible to make the most of
what the venue has to offer. Some suggestions:
Many school facilities offer the option of
two-bedroom suites or single rooms, so guests don’t have to relive
their Animal House years while waiting in line for the
shower. Be prepared to watch cost-savings shrink, however, if the
entire group insists on singles.
Even food service
can be enhanced with a little creativity. A number of schools have
on-site art or history museums that are available for formal
dinners; some work with off-site caterers and restaurants. At Duke
University in Durham, N.C., groups of up to 1,000 can hold a
reception on the lawn of the school’s signature Gothic chapel.
University of California, Los Angeles, will do Mexican-themed
banquets for up to 800 in settings with mission-style
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