Convention Centers Can Help Create a Positive Frame of Mind

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Convention Centers Can Help Create a Positive Frame of Mind

By Mikayla Milburn | Sep 6, 2019

Photo: Cobo Cares yoga, Detroit

Gone are the days of all work, no play as convention centers are making it even easier to participate in work activities while getting some much needed me-time. These three convention centers have implemented wellness programs that allow event attendees to recharge their mental batteries while linking nature and sustainability with personal wellness.

Pure Detroit

For the past three years, the Cobo Center in Detroit has been rolling out the Cobo Cares program, which provides free exercise, networking and community engagement opportunities for locals and visitors. The 2019 Cobo Cares season, which began in May and will continue through October, includes exercise activities such as Zumba and yoga, coupled with opportunities to give back to local nonprofits. According to Cobo’s general manager, giving back to the environment and the community is particularly important when focusing on wellness.

“Part of our overall sustainability program is designed to extend the culture of environmentalism into the greater Detroit community with free events and educational opportunities to residents and event attendees,” says Claude Molinari, general manager of Cobo Center. “These sessions can be scheduled during a particular event with little or no cost to show management. Encouraging people to take care of themselves, communities and the planet is the basis of the Cobo Center sustainability program.”

Cobo is also an APEX-certified facility that works to promote sustainable practices such as food donation, specialized recycling and reduced energy consumption. Visitors can not only exercise personal wellness but provide wellness opportunities to others and the environment. The Cobo Cares program supports environmental and community causes such as the Green Living Science, Alternatives for Girls, Bees in the D, the Michigan Humane Society and the Rock CF Foundation. With these programs, volunteers can help clean homes and churches, board up vacant houses or plant flowers and trees. The center also features inclusive spaces such as Mamava nursing pods and gender-neutral bathrooms.

“Wellness is the first step to sustainability and initiating environmental change from the inside out,” Molinari says. “The event industry provides some of the most stressful jobs in the workforce, and selfcare is essential, as is community engagement. Environmental stewardship takes all of us doing everything we can for the planet, beginning with optimal health for ourselves.”

According to the Detroit Metro CVB, the city is well suited for wellness events, with the Detroit International RiverWalk being a popular spot for unique activities such as puppy cuddling.

“We’ve had a variety of wellness activities incorporated into meetings here in Detroit, including yoga and dance classes and RiverWalk walks or runs,” says Susan Richardson, director of sales for the CVB. “Another planner arranged a puppy cuddle. She set up a small area outside our downtown convention center that mimicked a small patch of farmland and as attendees came out of their sessions, they could visit the puppies. It was a great way for meeting attendees to destress and feel comforted after a long meeting.”

Situated within walking distance of the RiverWalk, the Cobo Center complex is 2.4 million square feet with four levels of meeting space and a 30,000-square-foot glass atrium. The 40,000-square-foot Grand Riverview Ballroom features floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the Detroit Riverfront with more than 200,000 square feet of flex space. Outdoor activities are held in the 24,000-square-foot Cobo Square, an outdoor terrace.

Built for Walesness

Opening in fall 2019, the entire ICC Wales facility has been built with “Walesness” in mind. The strong, contemporary architecture of the convention center and the surrounding organic and soothing beauty of the Coldra Woods coincide to “bridge the gap between grey and green” for a bespoke facility that caters to the wellness needs of planners and guests, according to the ICC Wales official website.

“ICC Wales is the first purpose-built convention center of its kind in Wales. Every aspect of the building was developed as a result of worldwide consultation into creating the world’s best convention center,” says Danielle Bounds, sales director for ICC Wales. “Wellbeing is increasingly a priority for event planners, meeting attendees and venues. We are responding to our customers and taking a leadership position in this area.”

The venue will feature a living wall inside the atrium, ponder pods, natural light in all meeting spaces, wildlife-watching sessions and planting and gardening programs. ICC Wales will also implement a wellness-motivated food program that stems from a mind, body and soul philosophy that uses local ingredients and superfoods to boost alertness and energy levels. With walking and running trails along the facility, guests can also experience a little ecotherapy by surrounding oneself with nature.

“Our recent work on incorporating the natural environment into events to promote wellbeing is just the beginning. We’d really like to work together with our clients to make sure wellbeing is an integral part of event plans rather than an add-on,” Bounds says. “It’s about helping Wales to take the lead on issues that are important to all of our futures.”

In accordance with its focus on wellness, ICC Wales has recently revealed its wellness report, The Great Outdoors, which provides planners with both information on the center’s wellness features and a 10-point guide on how to incorporate nature into events. According to the report, Wales is one of the few countries with statutes that ensure sustainability and, as such, the center is staying completely plastic free.

“Welsh government strategies also promote and prioritize wellbeing and protection of the natural environment,” Bounds says. “It’s an instinctive way for us to think.”

ICC Wales will also include world-class amenities designed to meet practical needs. The facility will feature 85,000 square feet of total floor space that can accommodate up to 5,000 guests at one time, 15 flexible meeting and breakout rooms, a 13,000-square-foot pillarless main hall and a generous atrium entrance, all of which contain natural daylight. The center will also feature an auditorium with seating for 1,500 that has six flexible and divisible sections and an 8,000-square-foot outdoor plaza.

Wellness in Wilmington

Wilmington, N.C. is clearly back in the game following last year’s Hurricane Florence, as evidenced by securing a position as one of TripAdvisor’s 2018 Travelers’ Choice “Top Destinations on the Rise.” The natural scenery surrounding the multiuse Convention District makes it a prime location for wellness programs. Located riverfront and within the city’s River District, a nearly two-mile scenic Riverwalk makes it easy for attendees to get around and provides plenty of opportunities to stay active.

Wilmington’s new Convention District is anchored by the Wilmington Convention Center, the largest convention center on North Carolina’s coast. The maritime-themed center offers meeting capabilities of up to 2,000 people and a variety of spaces,” says Kim Hufham, president and CEO of the Wilmington and Beaches CVB. “Its surroundings lead to a positive frame of mind and productivity with access to water, fresh air and wellness and networking activities offered during breaks.”

There are plenty of possibilities for planners to incorporate group activities and wellness experiences into their agendas. Wilmington boasts beautiful river and ocean views, trails where attendees can hike and birdwatch, smell the flowers in world-class gardens, take a surfing course or find their zen during yoga programs on the riverfront or oceanfront piers.

“The Wilmington Convention Center has a 12,000-square-foot waterfront event lawn. Many groups incorporate morning yoga and meditation breaks into their agendas,” Hufham says. “Some groups encourage small breakout groups to stroll along the Riverwalk to facilitate working sessions and brainstorms.”

Being so close to the ocean, guests can enjoy fresh seafood sourced straight from the nearby coastal islands and fresh cheeses and meats from the mainland. Thanks to outstanding new and established restaurants and notable chefs, a food revival is taking place in Wilmington that will feed not only the body but the soul.

“All of the produce we use at the convention center is sourced locally on a seasonal basis and incorporated into summer salads, fruit displays and continental breakfasts. Our chicken is also sourced locally when possible,” says Wilmington Convention Center Executive Chef Don Vilain. “During the summer months, the culinary team creates a menu showcasing seasonal ingredients and lighter entrees—pairing a salad with summer vegetables and a protein, for example.”

The 107,000-square-foot Wilmington Convention Center—overlooking the Cape Fear River—offers meeting capabilities for up to 2,000 people and a variety of spaces. The center also features an 11,286-square-foot event lawn for outdoor wellness activities. Additional amenities include an elegant Grand Ballroom that accommodates up to 800 guests, an exhibit hall that accommodates 1,750 guests and a variety of meeting rooms.



Mikayla Milburn
Mikayla Milburn

MiKayla Milburn is a freelance contributor who writes relatable, accurate and resolute content. In her personal life, she adores her furbabies and her husband, in that order.