For each ‘Planner’s Pick,’ Prevue interviews a planner for their choices of compelling, high value destinations.
PLANNER: KRISTEN SHEEHAN
Director of Events
Shevent Planning, NJ
The 720-room Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate triumphs the proven formula combining a major cosmopolitan city with a self-contained group hotel outside the city limits. Located in Kissimmee, FL on 1,200 acres of preserved wetlands, Omni ChampionsGate is only 25 minutes to the airport and 15 to Disney Orlando.
Many groups don’t go too far, however, with two 18-hole Greg Norman golf courses on-property. The International course offers a challenging British “links” concept, while the more American-style National Course is the perfect tournament opener. And for those golfers who haven’t quite grasped the game as they would like, there’s a 9-hole, 3-pitch course located adjacent to the pool and 15-acre recreation area.
“If they don’t have the energy or time to play 18 holes, they’ll play the pitch and putt—this year it was more popular than ever,” says Kristen Sheehan, Director of Events at Shevent Planning. She creates the annual 4-day educational conference for LEAP SYSTEMS, a financial planning software company.
Sheehan definitely appreciates the hotel location and the value that comes with it.
“It’s close, but far enough away that you feel like you’re tucked away by yourself,” she says. “There’s good value for what you get…, and half the rooms face the pool, giving breathtaking views of the sunset from the balcony.”
Inside, Omni offers 70,000 sf of flexible meeting and event space. There’s also all of the abundant outdoor function space around the large grounds. In fact, Sheehan says her favorite reception venue is the manicured grounds of the Golf Course Commons, which is also regularly used for weddings.
Kristen, what can you tell us about the food?
“The food. Our attendees rave about it every time. We tried their ‘Zen Experience,’ which is a unique buffet of sushi selections from their Zen Restaurant. Some of the best sushi I’ve ever had.”
Two other restaurants will satiate everyone else’s F&B demands. Trevi’s dishes up Mediterranean cuisine with optional dining amid an Italian herb garden that the chefs grab from daily. And David’s Club is an upscale sports bar and grill.
“You must try the ‘Omni Experience,’ which includes tastings from each of the restaurants, but with a twist,” says Sheehan. “They served a Caprese salad but the tomato and mozzarella cheese were speared and served like shish kabob.”
And how do you feel about the service?
“We’ve been here six times for our annual meeting and several smaller ones, but no matter the size of group—20 to 450—the Omni ChampionsGate staff treats us the same. It’s like going home. The laid-back approach just makes everything so easy to return.”
Can you give us an example of where the service shines?
“They know I’m too busy in the morning to eat, but when that first meeting begins, one of their planners shows up with a bowl of Cheerios and a banana. As a planner, it’s vital to know they’re looking out for me.”