In April 2014, the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA), in partnership with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and mall development company Westfield Corp., unveiled a $26 million revamp of O’Hare’s International Terminal 5. The overhaul added 24 new luxury retail and dining options as well as Chicago’s first airport spa, XpresSpa. Additional Terminal 5 features now include redesigned restrooms, lounge-style seating with outlets and USB ports, new lighting and signage and fixtures, all of which incorporate sustainable and recycled materials.
O’Hare is one of the world’s busiest airports in terms of passenger traffic, hosting nearly 10.2 million travelers in Terminal 5 in 2013. Previously, 95 percent of the food and retail options were located pre-security, according to the CDA, making it hard for passengers to access such stops close to their gate. As part of the revamp, the TSA checkpoints were reconfigured and more space was allocated to enhance the traveler experience. The airport is just one part of the revitalization the area around O’Hare is seeing, and there are benefits for travelers, locals and especially groups. Here’s a look at what you can now expect.
Carlucci of Rosemont
Less than 3 miles from the airport, Carlucci of Rosemont offers numerous private dining options for groups ranging from 10 to 200. The menu is diverse, with rustic Italian dishes as well as certified Black Angus steaks and seafood. With multi-year awards from Wine Spectator and Chicago Magazine, guests will appreciate the consistent quality of service and food as well as the complimentary restaurant shuttle, which services most Rosemont hotels.
Hugo’s Frog Bar & Chop House
What was before an experience only available for guests willing to brave the Michigan Avenue/State Street melee is now just minutes from O’Hare. Located in the nearby Rivers Casino, Hugo’s Frog Bar & Chop House has the same classy/funky charm as its downtown location and the same fresh-daily seafood and steaks, including the famous Hugo’s Crab Cake, described as a meal of its own. “Hugo’s Frog Bar & Chop House boasts a marriage between a classic steakhouse and modern contemporary design,” says Seamus Boyle, general manager. “The menu features Gibsons Prime Angus Beef and also lobster tails, king crab legs, fresh fish and seafood, salads and sandwiches.” After dinner, the famous piano bar is open seven days a week, 5 p.m. until midnight.
Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse
For a more lively and sporty event, Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse, Rosemont offers both great food and a true Chicago experience for locals and out-of-towners. Voted Best Steakhouse by the Chicago Tribune Dining Poll and Best of Citysearch Poll, Harry Caray’s offers great steaks and wine. However, it’s the incredible collection of sports memorabilia—a tribute to the Cubs beloved sportscaster—that makes the venue unique. Sports fans will love the atmosphere and, of course, the huge bar jammed with plasma TVs for prime game viewing
MEETINGS VENUES & HOTELS
Chicago Executive Conference Center
Located 10 minutes from O’Hare, the multipurpose Chicago Executive Conference Center is the perfect alternative to a hotel for large or small meetings. With 19 executive meeting spaces ranging from 400 to 3,000 square feet, each meeting room provides ergonomically correct conference furniture and reasonably priced meetings packages that include a range of A/V equipment (projector, screen, computer) as well as flip charts, sound and continuous beverage service throughout the day. The Chicago Executive Conference Center is also home to the largest business bookstore in the Midwest with more than 3,000 titles.
Loews Chicago O’Hare Hotel
Initially constructed as the Intercontinental Hotel in September 2008, Loews Hotels & Resorts= repurchased the property in July 2014 and renamed it to the Loews Chicago O’Hare Hotel, according to Sarah Murov, vice president of public relations. The 53,000 square feet of meeting and event space includes four grand ballrooms, 34 meeting rooms and nine private boardrooms. Fresco 21, an on-site restaurant, also offers private dining rooms and event quarters. The hotel’s flexible space is ideal for hosting board meetings, social gatherings, product launches, banquets and other large-scale corporate events for as many as 1,100 people. Some other unique features include personalized planning by Loews meeting planners, who are dedicated to each function from start to finish and assist with planning, detailing and executing a successful program for both planners and attendees, according to Murov.
“We have held a meeting at the Loews Chicago O’Hare location three times in two years,” says client Ron Roscoe from Vistex, a global software provider. “So many factors contribute to our complete satisfaction: the proximity to O’Hare, the modern and chic sleeping rooms, the abundance of meeting space, the sales team and the rest of the staff that is willing and able to assist when needed.”
In April 2014, the Westin O’Hare completed a $22 million renovation. According to Alan Fabris, area director of sales and marketing, the revamp consisted of refreshed meeting spaces, along with the addition of a new 3,400-square-foot ballroom. There was also a transformation of the lobby and public areas, a revitalized Benchmark restaurant as well as the addition of a fully licensed Starbucks café. “We are noticing more short-term bookings as well as an increase in both our corporate and pharmaceutical meeting markets due to our renovation and the growing Rosemont entertainment attractions,” says Fabris. In total, the hotel offers 52,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, including an amphitheater that seats 218 people and a 12,000-square-foot Grand Ballroom. Another new feature is the renovated fitness center with 24-hour access along with an indoor pool, whirlpool and sundeck.
Carolyn A. Schoeneman, a specialist in labor relations for United Airlines, hosted an event at the Westin O’Hare that lasted for multiple months, Monday through Friday, with some weekends included. “The warm and friendly team at the hotel made our stay and event flawless and just so comfortable,” she says.
According to Jaynie Phillips, director of sales and marketing for the Sheraton O’Hare, the area is ideal for meetings because finding flights into O’Hare is easier and more convenient for those juggling multiple attendee schedules than finding flights in alternate cities. Additionally, she says, the variety of entertainment options available in the O’Hare area (the Rosemont fashion mall, Kings Bowling, Rosemont Theatre and Rivers Casino are just some examples) means you don’t have to shuttle your guests into Chicago.
“O’Hare typically provides group and individual travelers lower guest room rates than they would find in downtown Chicago,” says Phillips. In 2012, the Sheraton O’Hare, which is an all suites property, went through a complete renovation of the guest rooms, meeting space and public areas. With 13,000 square feet of meeting space to house groups from two to 250 people, the hotel also opened a new 2,000-square-foot fitness center with LifeFitness cardio and weight machines in 2014.
“The level of service and attention I received from the staff was amazing; when I asked for something it was delivered without delay,” says recent client Mark Rytwinski, VP of systems engineering for data management company Commvault. “Traveling every week for business, I experience a lot of different hotels; Sheraton O’Hare by far was the best service I received.”