Rotary convention planned for Baltimore heads to Dover instead

DOVER — Concern over rioting in Baltimore led the Delaware, Eastern and Upper Shore of Maryland Rotary Club District to change plans and hold its upcoming yearly conference at Dover Downs Hotel and Casino.

The Friday through Sunday event could bring up to an extra 140 guests to Kent County, some staying at Dover Downs and others at area lodging spots. Dover Downs will refer others to local hotels, and Rotary provided similar information to members registered to attend the conference.

The 44th annual event was scheduled originally at the Holiday Inn in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, but Rotary officials monitoring the escalating danger decided Monday to officially opt out of the site.

By Tuesday morning district governor for Rotary District 7630 Jennifer Reider had examined the Baltimore event’s contract while simultaneously contacting Dover Downs officials as a possible host option.

Dover Downs came through in Rotary’s time of need, and conference planners managed to re-work within an afternoon an event two years in the making.

“I was feeling pretty disheveled at that point, but Dover Downs was very accommodating and willing to work with us to make it happen there,” Ms. Reider said. “We had to re-arrange the schedule a bit and change some events, but the conference will go on.”

Even with a busy weekend upcoming at Dover Downs, the hotel was able to provide a block of 10 rooms booked first come, first serve, along with conference room space.

“We’re glad to help out,” Dover Downs President and CEO Ed Sutor said.

“It’s a busy weekend with the Kentucky Derby and (Manny) Pacquiao fight, along with Dover Days, Military (weekend) and a major poker tournament here, and we couldn’t give them as many as wanted, but are helping out as much as possible.”

Mr. Sutor said any time major conventions are booked at Dover Downs, the hotel refers potential customers to other area lodging sites if needed, and then provides shuttles to the main venue.

“We’re glad to be able to have enough space to assist in some way,” Mr. Sutor said.
Area Rotarians began expressing concern about Baltimore’s rising trouble to officials late last week, and Ms. Reider said many had already announced they would not attend there.

Location an asset

With its centrally located site and previous relationship built through hosting Rotary’s Foundation Dinner last November, Dover Downs was the next best option, officials said.

Ms. Reider cited numerous positive factors associated with Dover Downs, including its accessibility as a venue, expansive space for guests, top-notch staff with a helpful attitude, free parking, excellent food and beverages, along with a bevy of entertainment options within the hotel and casino. Plus, if some Rotarians choose not to stay overnight, they can come and go while still attending conference events.

“It worked well for both of us,” Ms. Reider said. “We needed a quick solution and they provided a quick answer. It allowed (Dover Downs) to take on some added business, which is always good.”

In addition to conducting business, Rotary will hold a 1980s-style dinner Friday, along with providing information to members and saluting the organization’s accomplishments and award winners from 2014.

“The district meeting is designated to conduct business, but is also for fun, information and conversation between different (clubs), along with celebrating the past year,” Ms. Reider said.

Applauding the efforts of Rotary and Dover Downs to quickly bring the conference here was Kent County Director of Tourism Cindy Small.

“It’s nice that people who have never been to the area or have been away for a long time will experience a great weekend in Dover,” Ms. Small said. “There’s a lot going on, so perhaps they will venture over to Dover Days (or something else that gives them a positive feeling about being here).

“It’s amazing to us that Dover Downs was able to accommodate them on such short notice. Hats off to them for pulling it off.”

Four Dover clubs are in the local district — Downtown, Capital City, Colonial, and Dover — along with Camden-Wyoming.

Other Kent and Sussex County clubs include Smyrna-Clayton, Milford, Harrington, Nanticoke-Seaford, Georgetown-Millsboro, Lewes-Rehoboth Beach, Southern Sussex and Long Neck-Sunrise.

New Castle County is represented by Rotary of Wilmington, Wilmington West, Caesar Rodney, Brandywine Hundred, Brandywine-Naamans, Hockessin-Greenville, Newark, Newark Morning, Christiana, Middletown-Odessa and Southern New Castle County.

Maryland Rotary locations include three in Salisbury, Snow Hill-Ocean City, Berlin, Pocomoke City, Centreville, Denton, Chestertown, Cambridge, Elkton and North East.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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