[Chicago] PyCon 2008 Hotel Update -- (Networking & Space & a 2009 option)

Ted Pollari tcp at mac.com
Thu Mar 15 17:08:24 CET 2007

There was a walk through of the hotel yesterday, in attendance were  
Larry Skaja and Tim Costello from CTE, along with  Carl Karsten and I.

We met with Don Johnston, the manager of A/V services, Sue Parikh,  
the sales manager who's handling our contract, Marcia Perzyna, the  
hotel's meeting director, and the hotel's IT manager, who's name/card  
I didn't get and a few other executives from the hotel who were in  
attendance for brief introductions, etc.

networking issues:

The bad news:  the hotel's internet service is provided by iBAHN, no  
real surprise there. The iBAHN service appears to only have one AP  
per ballroom (we got a look at the network closets while we were on  
the tour), so obviously we'd be facing the exact same sort of issues  
we faced with the iBHAN provided network in Dallas in 2006.

The good news:  The hotel is more than willing to work with us on  
bringing in our own/separate internet service (this is a complete 180  
from their previous stance!).  They expressed genuine interest in  
helping us get this worked out right -- they said they've had one or  
two occasions where they had a large number of laptop users in a  
concentrated area and had some networking issues with their iBAHN  
provided network, which they viewed as a serious embarrassment.    
They were willing to explore the idea of pushing iBAHN for more  
service, but they discouraged that option as they'd prefer to keep  
iBAHN out of the deal and they also didn't seem optimistic for  
reasonable pricing for increased service.

We've agreed to leave the networking issues out of the contract, with  
the understanding (written into the contract, I believe) that there  
will be an additional agreement drafted about networking at a future  
date.  I see this as very reasonable -- it seemed clear to me that  
they were taking our group very seriously and believing our  
insistence that we'd overwhelm the current network.

Bringing in our own outside provider, with the hotel's help, may not  
be cheap, but whatever price we pay, I'm certain it will be fair, and  
that's  a big improvement from what we saw in Dallas, from what I  
gather.  Doing so will likely require the hotel to do a number of  
additional cable runs, from the main networking closet to the various  
rooms where we'll want access points.  At present, the iBAHN network  
drops (which we'd have to work to use) are only a single cat 5 jack  
per room, including ballrooms, from what we saw/were told.  We'll  
obviously need more/our own, dedicated runs which I'm sure that the  
hotel will want us to cover some of the cost for those cable drops,  
but Larry and I both think that we should not be paying much, if  
anything, for that improvement.   I'm sure we can work something out  
as there'll be lasting value to the hotel in having them available,  
so clearly they should share a good deal of the cost for that.

As far as ISP's go, the hotel is amenable to exploring any option  
with us -- everything from DSL lines to a WISP to bringing in more T1  
lines over the T3 line they've got running into their premises from  
SBC.   The only catch is that we'll need to get ourselves moving on  
these plans ASAP -- the more lead time everyone involved has, the  

What we need, ASAP:

- Bandwidth requirements.  Sean's minimum was 9 mbps -- are we still  
fine with that as a minimum?  What would be our desired number?
- Number of AP's per ballroom/tutorial room -- this will give the  
hotel an idea of what we'll need for the new cable runs.

What we need soon:

- An ISP and a networking plan.


See http://www.crowneplazaohare.com/page15.aspx for the room  
dimensions/relative sizes.

The basic layout is that the ballrooms are all on the main level,  
with one main hallway allowing access to all of them.  One floor down  
are all of the remaining rooms on that layout.  Many of them are  
directly underneath the ballrooms and the rest are along another  
hallway that runs perpendicular to the main hallway, at its end. The  
lower meeting rooms are connected to the upper level by a staircase  
and an escalator.  Elevators are available, but they're not ideally  
located and would require a little walk to go from the ballrooms to  
the meeting rooms directly below.  The staircase/escalator are not  
the largest I've seen, but they'll more than suffice for traffic  
flow, given that our main sessions will all be in the ballroom spaces.

The Heathrow, Orly and Templehoff were tiny.  That's fine we will  
basically have the run of the place and can have as many or as few  
rooms as we need.  (and  http://www.crowneplazaohare.com/pdfs/ 
capchart.pdf for the capacity info)

For tutorials, the Kennedy, Midway, Kitty Hawk, Kai Tak, Haneda, La  
Guardia, and Love Int'l A and B could all suitably be used for  
tutorial sessions.   The Midway room was ideal in many respects,  
resembling many a college classroom I've been in, complete with built- 
in desks/chairs.

For registration and then vendor/sponsor space, we can use the  
atrium, which is a nice open feeling space on the other side of the  
cafe area.  This will give vendors/sponsors a more prominent  
placement that will get them more mindshare than where we've had them  
in previous years.

Adjacent to the atrium space is a decent sized room that used to be  
the hotels video-game room, which they're adding as an office space  
for the conference.  It's lockable (no idea if we can get keys or if  
we'll need security to do it) but it's secure and yet close to the  
conference space and accessible.   We can (obviously) use it for an  
office or for storage if we need, but there'll be plenty of space for  
that elsewhere.

2009 Option:

We have a contract in hand for 2009 as well.  The only difference  
being that they want $105 per room night.  That's not out of line  
according to Larry and not unreasonable in my opinion.

We don't have to act on it now and we will have the right of first  
refusal, so they won't sell it out from under us without giving us  
the chance to sign.

Having this is an excellent bargaining chip for IT, Catering, and A/V  
negotiations but I think we'd be best off holding off on signing it  
until we've negotiated the catering and IT issues and explored other  
options for other venues, such as something on the west coast.  I  
spoke with Larry about this issue this morning and he's willing to  
work with us on finding west coast options (or anywhere else that the  
group would like).


I'll post pictures shortly.  Another email to follow.


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