Greater Lansing—historic, political and gritty—is enjoying a renaissance. “Downtown is growing by leaps and bounds and there is always something fun to do there,” says Diane Dick, the Michigan Association of School Administrators conference and events planner.
Jennifer Preslar concurs. The Michigan Association of Broadcasters planner recently arranged for 800 members of the group to gather in Michigan’s state capital for the annual Great Lakes Broadcasting Conference in March.
She points out that an off-site location, the Waterfront Bar, included an added bonus: the Grand River flowing by. “Being on the river was a treat,” says Preslar. “We are excited to see and be part of the renaissance Lansing is currently experiencing.”
Others rave about the amped-up activity generated by 75 restaurants and nightlife venues—and expanding—in a city that wasn’t always this lively. Another plus: Just 5 miles east of Lansing is busy East Lansing, home to Michigan State University, its 50,000 students and entertainment/meeting venues.
In recent years, Lansing’s minor league baseball stadium—the Cooley Law School Stadium, home of the Class A Midwest League’s Lansing Lugnuts—underwent a major renovation, adding snazzy meeting space and new housing. Add to that the 20-mile paved River Trail, which attracts bicyclists and runners. People now are even kayaking the Grand River.
Preslar, vice president of programs, says Lansing is only 90 minutes away for 90 percent of the state’s population.
“That’s a big plus for both (meeting/conference) attendees and vendors,” she says.
The broadcasters group met at the Lansing Center, just steps from the actual State Capitol. “There are so many hotels to choose from, a planner can reserve group blocks at all price points,” Preslar says.
Long-time resident Paul Rathbun, who owns the Rathbun Insurance in Lansing, is renovating a 100-year-old downtown building into a loft for himself with a minigrocery on the first floor.
Development, especially along Michigan Avenue, is accelerating, he says. “In the last year it’s really taken hold.”
Amanda Wentzloff, area director with Greater Michigan, Muscular Dystrophy Association, recently scheduled an annual meeting in the 2,000-square-foot View meeting room at the Cooley Law School Stadium. “The area is fun and has a lot to offer locals and out-of-towners,” she says. Wentzloff loved that meeting-goers didn’t have to go far from their hotels. “We were able to walk to our destinations. Lansing is a great location for bringing in participants from across the state,” she adds.
Tracy Padot, vice president of marketing communications with the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau, says the bureau is ready to help planners for no cost and will even find affordable staffing to work conferences. “We open the doors to unique facilities sure to excite attendees,” says Padot.
Preslar noticed. “There is definitely a team atmosphere in Lansing.”
>> More than 17 craft wineries, microbreweries and distilleries make up a libation collective along the Makers and Shakers Trail, which surrounds greater Lansing. “Most facilities offer tours and tastings for groups, making them the perfect option for off -site special events,” says Tracy Padot of the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau. The CBV off ers a special brochure that highlights all of the stops along the way.
>> At any given time patrons at the Lansing Brewing Co. can choose from 12-24 fresh brews. “It’s constantly changing,” says Scott Lloyd, supervisor. The bar off ers the Stock House, where up to 100 can gather, and a rentable meeting room for 45.
>> With more than 500 animals on 20 acres, the Potter Park Zoo, just south of downtown, can provide indoor and outdoor space for human animals to huddle for a retreat.
>> How about a group kayak outing? “We get a lot of big groups for teambuilding or for doing something outside the box,” says River Town Adventures employee Kristen Warner. Kayakers can choose gliding down the Grand or Red Cedar rivers—or be shuttled to nearby parks.
>> The R. E. Olds Transportation Museum, with more than 60 classic vehicles dating from 1886-2003, off ers a boardroom for 25.
>> Red Cedar Spirits, where handcrafted vodka, gin, brandy whiskey and bourbon are distilled in East Lansing, has a meeting room for up to 27.
Here’s what’s new at three major venues:
Open since November 1986, the Lansing Center, the largest convention center in the city, has been undergoing its own revival. “We just updated our Internet infrastructure last fall,” says Scott Horgan, the center’s vice president of sales and services. “We replaced all of our access points in the building, updated our wireless controller and now have a consistent 1-gig pipe for client use.”
COOLEY LAW SCHOOL STADIUM
Events and Meetings Manager Malinda Barr, CTA, invites guests to experience the renovated stadium (home to the Lansing Lugnuts) with its 360-degree concourse, new meeting space, apartment complex and ball field. “We have a positive atmosphere and open air spaces,” says Barr of the property down the street from the Lansing Center and Radisson Hotel at the Capitol.
KELLOGG HOTEL & CONFERENCE CENTER
All 160 rooms at the East Lansing hotel, located on the northwest side of Michigan State University’s campus, were refreshed after a 2015 renovation. Staff provides “individual detail and custom menus for groups,” says Kristina Reitler, CMP, CTA, group director of sales, Spartan Hospitality. The ballrooms and hotel lobby were renovated in 2012 and 2017, respectively.