THE BEST IS YET TO COME
Donald E. Stephens Convention and Conference Center Undergoes Multi-Million Dollar Renovation
In 1975, the 150,000 square-foot building called the O’Hare Exposition Center opened and hosted 16 tradeshows in its first year of operation. Nearly four decades later, the same building, now known internationally as the Donald E. Stephens Convention and Conference Center, is nearly one million square feet and welcomes approximately 1.35 million visitors annually to more than 100 tradeshows, conventions, meetings and expositions.
The fulcrum of the impressive economic performance of the Village of Rosemont, the Stephens Center already has made some $2.5 million worth of improvements to the center’s garage, and there is much more to come. Approximately 64,000 square feet of space on both levels of the conference center will be revamped, including the foyers, the ballrooms and the restrooms. The elevated covered walkway is part of the plan, too.
The upgrades and renovations will ensure that the Stephens Center remains among the top convention venues in the nation.
“We already have completed the first phase of improvements, which included a complete renovation of the 300-car garage, located on the east side of the building,” said Christopher Stephens, executive director of the center.
“The infrastructure improvements were extremely important to the safety and convenience of our visitors,” he said of the major project.
“But the most visible and helpful improvement is the new signage,” he continued.
“Previously, the garage was barely visible. But now, a prominent sign makes it easier for visitors to find and is much more welcoming.”
The next piece of the renovation is the 9,400 linear-foot covered and climate-controlled walkway that links: The Stephens Center with two garages (the aforementioned garage as well as the garage across River Road on the west side of the center); four hotels (the Hyatt Regency O’Hare, the Hilton Rosemont Chicago O’Hare, Doubletree Hotel O’Hare-Rosemont and aloft Chicago O’Hare hotel; and MB Financial Park at Rosemont.
The walkway will be remodeled from top to bottom.
Painted wall panels and Rosemont Red painted portals will feature LED light slots that will break down the visual length of the ramp. A 170-foot, illuminated photo box will present a pictorial history of Rosemont. Carpet will be installed and a new acoustical ceiling will be added that will include recessed down lighting.
Other segments of the walkway will be modified to include new resilient flooring, acoustical ceiling tiles, Rosemont Red Carpet bands on the floor and accent graphics on the walls. Framed photography will be added to visually enrich the visitor’s experience.
Finally, frosted film will be added to most of the windows to diffuse the natural light and obscure the views of rooftop mechanical equipment.
But the biggest part of the renovation will be made to the popular conference center, which is 64,000 square feet of very flexible space: It may be configured into 28 meeting rooms, ranging from1,230 square feet to a ballroom of 30,000 square feet.
On both levels (not including the newer south ballroom), the space can serve – on both levels -- a total 7,000 guests for receptions; 3,900 guests in a classroom format and 4,800 guests for banquet style.
The overall scheme is based on updating the complex by integrating the more recently completed entry plaza design and entry experience to G Hall. Much of the art deco millwork walls and pink marble fountain will remain, but will be refreshed with the introduction of new materials that will contrast the existing decoration, thereby dramatizing the art deco context.
The renovation includes all-new acoustical ceilings, wall coverings, art and carpet designs that will be complimented by more energy efficient lighting. The new, foyer furniture groups are being created to increase guest comfort and convenience. Console tables, framed art and light sconces also are being custom-designed and manufactured to adorn the corridor spaces. The ballrooms will receive in-wall treatments and lighting, as well as new fabric faces for the movable wall systems. The coffered chandeliers will remain throughout the facility, but will be accented by new wood trim and contrasting painted gyp board soffit frames.
The second floor window wall, currently made of reflective glass, will be replaced with a combination of clear and frosted glass panels, creating a more transparent appearance. Elegant sheer draperies will be added to this wall to make the foyers and the entrance to the walkway easier to access, or, the draperies may be drawn for greater privacy, depending upon the needs of the user.
The restrooms will be transformed into more warm and comfortable spaces. Most of the mirrored surfaces and all the fluorescent strip lighting will be modified, or removed and replaced with new wall covering, wood trim and accent colors. New ceilings and terrazzo floors will bring a more relaxed feeling to the rooms. The terrazzo floors will remain in the men’s restrooms, but new floor tile and carpeting will be installed into the women’s restrooms.
The artwork throughout the conference center will be a rich, re-colored, sepia-toned treatment of the golden years (early 20th c.) of the art deco movement. The framed art will be quite large and impressive, befitting the large scale of t he spaces.
The furniture also will be upgraded with new chairs, table skirts and linens. Handsome wooden accents will enhance the beautiful of the original maple that adorns the conference center now.
Finally, the addition of draperies will compliment the original Italian pink marble fountain in the lobby and add to the rich new accoutrements.
Aria Group Architects have designed the renovated space; the firm is responsible for the design of the main entrance of the Stephens Center, including the illuminated fountain plaza for which Shuler Shook, in consultation with Aria, won the IES Regional Illumination Design Award of Merit in 2009.
“We are routinely ranked among the top convention and exposition centers in the nation,” said Mr. Stephens. “We need to remain among the elite facilities; so we are delighted to have the opportunity to make one of the best centers even better.”
Pending funding approval from Mayor Brad Stephens and the Village of Rosemont Board of Trustees, the renovation project should be approved and construction completed within the next year.
“We have welcomed a number of new developments in Rosemont – especially in the past year,” said Mayor Brad Stephens. “MB Financial Park at Rosemont, The Dome at the Ballpark at Rosemont and Fashion Outlets of Chicago are here today, t hanks to the success of this Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, and the premier level of service Christopher and his staff provide there.
“The Stephens Center has been either renovated or expanded 16 times in the past. We are dedicated to keeping it as attractive and competitive as possible.”