The Saint On the Other River

St. Charles Giving the Stl a Run for Its Meetings

By Bill Beggs Jr.

Saints “Chuck” and “Louie” could almost be neck and neck per capita in the meetings and events business. But to some self-important, provincial St. Louisans, St. Charles is that unknown burg way over yonder on the other bank of the Missouri River, otherwise known as “uncharted wilderness.” (“My word,” exclaims Aunt Mimsy, holding her teacup just so. “Aren’t fur trappers still exploring that territory? Plus, it’s so far!”) Well, Aunt Mimsy, it’s about 10 minutes from the airport: much closer than it is to downtown St. Louis. Sounds like Aunt Mimsy’s never been west of I-170, except maybe to shop at Saks in Plaza Frontenac, and doesn’t know interstates 70 or 270 even exist. Ignorance will do her no harm; besides, she’s not researching the right venue or venues for a meeting or convention. On the other hand, you may be. (Isn’t it just about time for her nap?) Anyhow, like St. Louis, the westernmost Saint in the metropolitan area has its own convention center, and St. Charles Convention Center (SCCC) has been doing just fine, thank you very much, since it opened a dozen years ago in 2005. In fact, the

Sounds like Aunt Mimsy’s never been west of I-170, except maybe to shop at Saks in Plaza Frontenac, and doesn’t know interstates 70 or 270 even exist. Ignorance will do her no harm; besides, she’s not researching the right venue or venues for a meeting or convention. On the other hand, you may be. (Isn’t it just about time for her nap?) Anyhow, like St. Louis, the westernmost Saint in the metropolitan area has its own convention center, and St. Charles Convention Center (SCCC) has been doing just fine, thank you very much, since it opened a dozen years ago in 2005. In fact, the

Anyhow, like St. Louis, the westernmost Saint in the metropolitan area has its own convention center, and St. Charles Convention Center (SCCC) has been doing just fine, thank you very much, since it opened a dozen years ago in 2005. In fact, the state-of-the art city-owned facility has operated in the black for the last six years. Now it even has its own exit off the interstate: Convention Center Boulevard. “We have 70 to 80 percent repeat business,” says Kristin Bowen, SCCC’s marketing manager. “And some of the larger shows and expos get a little of our help, from a marketing perspective.” Someone once said, “If it’s happening, it’s happening in St. Charles.” A lot of those happenings are at the convention center, of course, which has gotten high marks from groups large and small. “It’s my first choice for off-site meetings,” says Kelly Kirchoff of Essence Healthcare. “I can always count on

“We have 70 to 80 percent repeat business,” says Kristin Bowen, SCCC’s marketing manager. “And some of the larger shows and expos get a little of our help, from a marketing perspective.” Someone once said, “If it’s happening, it’s happening in St. Charles.” A lot of those happenings are at the convention center, of course, which has gotten high marks from groups large and small. “It’s my first choice for off-site meetings,” says Kelly Kirchoff of Essence Healthcare. “I can always count on

“It’s my first choice for off-site meetings,” says Kelly Kirchoff of Essence Healthcare. “I can always count on first-rate service from the staff and the facility is beautiful. I received a number of compliments on the event from attendees.”

SCCC has a 16,200-square-foot grand ballroom, and 27,600 square feet of exhibit hall space expandable to 35,700 square feet through the adjacent junior ballroom. The website will be getting some new bells and whistles early in 2017, and may have already by the time you read this.

“There’ll be a 360-degree experience,” says Bowen. “It will give you a comprehensive view of the space and how to use it.” A little east of the convention center, a booming mixed-use development, the Streets of Saint Charles, has sprung up south of I-70 where the old Noah’s Ark once stood many years ago. Fine restaurants like P.F. Chang’s and Tucano’s Brazilian grill and Prasino, with farm-to-table fare, are great spots to get together. A new seven-story, 180-room Drury Inn & Suites should be open nearby by the fourth quarter of 2017.

There are more modern venues and attractions in St. Charles than you could shake a stick at, but it’s also steeped in history: Here was the first state capitol. And this is where those two famed explorers set out to explore the Great American West in the early 1800s, after all. A bronze statue of Lewis and Clark stands in Frontier Park on the riverfront. A stone’s throw away is Main Street, much of it cobblestoned, the oldest and longest historic district in Missouri. Locals quibble about whether it’s 10 or 12 blocks long, but there’s no argument about its vintage. Many buildings are 200 years old. In the 125 restaurants and shops among the row houses, illuminated by gas lanterns at night, you’ll find fare from Celtic to Italian and plenty of all-American. Here you can discover gifts for others (or yourself) including unique specialty items, clothing, home accessories and jewelry. A century or so ago, provisions, pelts and barrels of nails were sold here. Coffee fit to drink might not have been available, but today you can savor some really good Joe at Picasso’s, 101 N. Main, and maybe even have a breakout meeting here or at any of a dozen other spots.

If you desire an event with a vintage flair or want to party like it’s 2017, options range from the Grand Opera House (311 N. Main), Boone’s Colonial Inn (322 S. Main), Old Stone Chapel (1106 S. Main) and Lewis & Clark’s (217 S. Main; but the famed explorers are long gone). The chapel is affiliated with the Heart of St. Charles banquet center, “up the hill” at 1410 S. Fifth St., where the Overlook Ballroom has a breathtaking view of the river bluffs.

Back “down the hill” is Foundry Art Centre, a non-profit with a dozen working artists on the second level, visible from the cavernous space on the first floor, and vice versa. A long time ago, railroad cars were produced at the Foundry, which has become a cultural destination and events center for the St. Charles and greater St. Louis metro featuring works by national, international and regional artists. Add flowers, music, punctuate with fine art… mix in choice food selections from some of the area’s best caterers… and the Foundry Art Centre becomes one of the most picturesque settings anywhere; the Grand Hall at 6,000 square feet is a coveted location for public events and private functions alike. CBS Radio holds its annual Wine & Chocolate (yum!) gala here, for 1,200 people and local paramedics pull in 400 people each at two annual shindigs.

“It was perfect—beautiful place, helpful staff—just amazing!” exclaims Nancy Pfifer, who had her daughter’s wedding reception there. “My daughter and I have always loved the Foundry Art Centre but now it has more meaning to us than ever.”

Beyond the south end of Main rises a hotel tower that can be seen from miles around: Ameristar Casino Resort Spa. And yes, it’s all that: A blend of traditional and non-traditional space, the sprawling Ameristar creates several unique environments for a meeting or event. The options include a 22,000-square-foot conference center, the Discovery Ballroom, which can be set up any which way (for booths, classroom-style, and so on), plus four other event spaces altogether known as the Imagination Room. And with smaller breakout rooms named Aspiration, Insight, Vision, Prosperity, Success and a boardroom dubbed Wisdom, who couldn’t come up with some great ideas?

For a fun and funky event at Ameristar there’s Ryse nightclub, which busts wide open every so often with internationally famed electronic dance artists such as Armin Van Buuren, Diplo and Steve Aoki. But if you’re a little less frenetic, then there’s Bottleneck Blues Bar, where dancing may sometimes be as wild and crazy, but not burn quite as many calories.

If you’d prefer to get all sweaty without dancing, there’s a prime location for running, walking and bicycling on a relatively flat surface: the Katy Trail, a onetime railroad bed that runs alongside the river. Starting in Frontier Park on your own two-wheeler or maybe one you rent nearby at the Bike Outpost at 610 S. Main, one, two, or a dozen folks may ride for one, two, 25, even 50 miles…or pretty much as far west as you wish. (Maybe even Jefferson City. Or not.) Tandems and other “hybrids” are also available, but if you’re not quite that adventurous you could get dressed up in racing gear and fake it at the Bike Stop Café, 701 Riverside Drive, with anything from a latte and breakfast all day to more filling noonday fare, plus beer and wine.

Maybe you and your group are in good enough shape to head further out to wine country in Augusta, perhaps south of town to Defiance… but that’s for another article and a different meeting!

CONTACT INFORMATION St. Charles Convention Center:
Kristin Bowen
636.669.3009
1 Convention Center Plaza
St Charles, MO 63303
stcharlesconventioncenter.com

Foundry Art Centre:
Melanie Sanders
636-255-0270
520 N. Main Center
St. Charles, MO 63301
foundryartcentre.org

Ameristar Casino Resort Spa:
Leah Bronstein
314.388.7818
Main: 636.949.7777
One Ameristar Blvd.
St. Charles, MO 63301
St. Charles Convention & Visitors Bureau:
Joanie Ohlms
636.255.6127 230
S. Main St. St. Charles, MO 63301
historicstcharles.com

MM&E
Bill Beggs Jr. is a freelance contributor from St. Louis.

About the author

Joe Clote

Joseph W. Clote is owner of Publishing Concepts, LLC a communications and marketing firm based in Saint Louis, Missouri. Mr. Clote is Group Publisher of MeetMed™ and Missouri Meetings & Events™ (MM&E) magazine, a quarterly publication read by thousands of meeting and event professionals, and producer of the St. Louis and Kansas City trade shows under the MM&E name. Mr. Clote has extensive sales and marketing expertise in the travel, tourism, fine art, insurance, and software development industries.