Rosemont, IL – Between 1,700 and 1,800 people attended last week’s dinner dance staged by the Village of Rosemont Jan. 20 in honor of its 50th anniversary. Among them were about 30 trade show managers whose conventions have helped turn Rosemont into a major convention destination. To mark the golden anniversary, a laser light show was staged over River Road in the heart of the Village throughout the week.
In 1956, the 2.5 square miles of unwanted land, 18 miles from downtown Chicago, was adjacent to what would become O’Hare International Airport. Donald E. Stephens and 18 residents incorporated the neighborhood as the Village of Rosemont. He’s still mayor today, overseeing village business for 4,200 residents.
Since its convention center was built in 1976, Rosemont has grown into one of the major convention destinations in the country. Today, the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center offers 840,000 square feet of prime exhibit space, having expanded 16 times in 30 years. The most recent expansion—a 40,000-square-foot addition to the conference center—opened in 2004. The convention center hosts roughly 80 to 100 events a year, bringing almost 2 million people to Rosemont.
Rosemont is the only village or city with more hotel rooms than residents. Its 14 major hotels offer 5,600 rooms –2,500 of them connected by covered walkways to the convention center. It also has well-known restaurants like Morton’s, Nick’s Fishmarket, Carlucci’s and Rosewood’s. Eateries like Harray Caray’s and Shoeless Joe’s add local color to the mix. The Village has a 4,200-seat Rosemont Theater and 19,000-seat Allstate Arena.
Now the Village of Rosemont is planning a new entertainment district that will bring more restaurants, movie theaters and more entertainment venues to the village. “It will be a big advantage for conventioneers,” said Grant Bailey, assistant executive director of sales and marketing for the convention center. Bailey credited Mayor Stephens and the Village trustees for having the vision to build and expand the convention center and other infrastructure that makes Rosemont an attractive place for conventioneers.
The adjoining two-level conference center at the convention center has three ballrooms and adds 92,000 square feet of meeting space to the mix. That helps meet today’s demand for breakout space to accommodate educational sessions. “Even when trade shows were smaller, the conference programs continued to grow,” said Grant Bailey, assistant executive director of sales and marketing.
The convention center offers other benefits that show managers say make a difference in Rosemont. Among them: proximity to the airport; better return on investment due to lower costs; flexible space and proximity of hotel rooms. Three new shows were added for 2006: National Manufacturing Week, WQA Aquatech USA and Packaging Services.
The convention center has an in-house service contractor that Bailey said reduces costs by 20 percent to 30 percent compared to other facilities. Some of that savings is passed on to exhibitors, he said. And it helps the center be more efficient with move-in/move-out because all materials are stored on site.