Minneapolis among finalists for 'Best Convention City'

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Minneapolis is among the top 20 finalists in a new poll by USA Today and 10 Best to find the "Best Convention City" in the U.S.

Of the city, the poll says: "Located a few blocks from a sprawling park, downtown shopping and all sorts of entertainment options and attractions, the Minneapolis Convention Center is a big draw throughout the year. It's pretty easy to reach the Center from MSP airport and a substantial number of hotels and restaurants are nearby, adding to its appeal."

The poll adds, "Minneapolis is also affordable, so the traveler who wants to build a weekend around a special event won't have budget issues."

Other cities in the running include Anaheim, California; Atlanta; Baltimore; Boston; Chicago; Dallas; Denver; Indianapolis; Las Vegas and Miami. Also being considered are Nashville, Tennessee; New Orleans; New York City; Orlando, Florida; Salt Lake City; San Antonio, Texas; San Diego; San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

Melvin Tennant, the CEO of the convention and visitors association Meet Minneapolis, tells WCCO that he's not surprised the city is included in the poll.

"We think that over time, people are beginning to really understand that we’re a top-tier destination," Tennant says. He adds the city's booming downtown is just too big for convention planners to ignore.

He also praises the Minneapolis Convention Center because it has nearly 90 meeting rooms and a great ballroom.

Tenant told WCCO that it's "going to be a huge year" for Minneapolis, with such events as the Girls' Junior National Championships for volleyball and the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Championships.

Tenant is also gearing up for the 2014 MLB All-Star Game at Target Field in July. He told the Star Tribune last month that he expects 160,000 people flock to Minneapolis for the four or five days around the July 15 game, and the city should benefit from events like the MLB Fan Fest, to be held at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

Despite the success of conventions in Minneapolis, apparently there is room to expand. MinnPost said Meet Minneapolis last year released a feasibility study for a 1,000-room convention hotel near the Minneapolis Convention Center.

The USA Today 10 Best poll says nominations for the 20 cities in the running were determined by their state-of-the-art convention centers, city offerings, proximity of hotels and restaurants, and travel ease, convenience and costs.

Readers have until March 10 to submit their votes.

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