October 01, 2000

Meetings & Conventions - On Campus - October 2000 Current Issue
October 2000
Rendezvous in the Rockies: The University of Colorado Rendezvous in the Rockies: The University of Colorado

On Campus

Close quarters aside, college venues can be smart for groups

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 billion business.

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 meeting space.

American University
Washington, D.C.
Residential Life & Housing Services
(202) 885-3370
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 rooms.

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.

Duke University
Durham, N.C.
Conference Services
(919) 660-1760
Gothic getaway: Duke University. 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 Service.

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 air-conditioned.

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.

Trinity University
San Antonio, Texas
Continuing Education & Conferences
(210) 999-7601
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 downtown cityscape.

Food with altitude: Trinity’s Skyline Dining Room 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 2001.

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, $10-$12

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 available.

University of Colorado
Boulder, Colo.
Conference Services
(303) 492-5151
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 year-round.

Taxes: Sales tax of 9.6 percent is added to accommodations, meals and meeting space charges. No hotel tax is charged.

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,
Los Angeles
Conference Services
(310) 825-5305
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 options.

Yale University
New Haven, Conn.
Conference Services
(203) 432-0465
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 learning.

Open for summer sojourns: Yale UniversityMeeting/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 on availability.

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 400.

Some college 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.

Hollywood hiatus: UCLAEven 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 architecture.



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