Despite the sluggish economy, a cursory glance at construction in Florida reveals plenty of activity:

The area near the Orange County Convention Center is undergoing a development surge with the arrival last year of the 315-room Westin Imagine Orlando, this September's debut of the 1,400 Hilton Orlando Hotel, a major expansion by the Peabody Orlando Hotel, and last year's opening of the 144-suite Pointe Orlando Resort luxury condo-hotel. Meanwhile, Pointe Orlando, a shopping, dining, entertainment complex, a block from the OCC, continues to expand with the recent introduction of the Cuba Libre Restaurant and Rum Bar and the Funky Monkey Wine Company restaurant and wine bar.

Downtown Orlando is also forging ahead on a development surge spurred on by the construction of the $480 million, 875,000-square-foot, 20,000-seat Orlando Events Center, to replace Amway Arena. Slated to open in October 2010, the complex will feature a 31,000-square-foot arena floor, five banquet rooms, a conference room, and an outdoor patio. Nearby, the $408 million Dr. P. Phillips Orlando Performing Arts Center, which has met with several delays, recently announced plans for a 2010 groundbreaking.

This fall also saw the debut of the $550 million Bonnet Creek Resort near Walt Disney World.

In Daytona Beach, the newly expanded Ocean Center has 200,000 square feet of meeting space, a 12,000-square-foot banquet hall, and 36 breakout rooms. It is across the street from Ocean Walk Village, a tourist district with hotels, restaurants, and shops.

Facilities Update

Orlando Area

  • At Disney, the 15-story Bay Lake Tower opened in August with 295 two-bedroom villas. The tower compliments the adjacent Contemporary Resort's 656 rooms and suites and 115,000-square-foot convention center.

  • Set to open in 2010 along the northeast border of Disney property is a 900-acre resort complex with a centerpiece 445-room Four Seasons Hotel and 18-hole golf course.

  • Opened in September, the 1,400-room Hilton Orlando Hotel at Orange County Convention Center features 175,000 square feet of meeting space (including a 50,000-square-foot and a 30,000-square-foot ballroom, 21 meeting rooms, and a walkway to the North/South Building of the convention center.

  • Opened in November following a $25 million propertywide makeover, the 323-room Holiday Inn in the Walt Disney World Resort has more than 11,000 square feet of meeting space.

  • In October, the 482-acre Bonnet Creek Resort opened on a site surrounded on three sides by Walt Disney World Resort. The 1,000-room Hilton Bonnet Creek offers 114,000 square feet of meeting space. The 498-room Waldorf Astoria Orlando has 28,000 square feet of meeting space, including its own man-made island, designed for special events. Guests at both properties have access to a 24,000-square-foot spa and on-site 18-hole championship golf course.

  • Scheduled for completion in November 2010 is a massive $450 million expansion and renovation project at the Peabody Orlando that will result in 1,641 guest rooms and 250,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space.

  • The 155-room Venturella Resort & Spa in Lake Buena Vista, with 6,500 square feet of meeting space, opened in summer 2009.

  • Opened in November, the 263-room Westin Lake Mary, Orlando North, features 14,000 square feet of meeting space.

  • The 400-room Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Hotel & Spa Bonnet Creek Resort, with 20,000 square feet of meeting space, should debut in early 2010 adjacent to the Walt Disney World Resort.

  • The 2,265-room Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort, in partnership with Florida State University, has developed an application for Apple's iPhone and iTouch that allows users to access in-depth resort information.

  • Rosen Hotels & Resorts and the Orange County Convention Center have partnered in a program that electronically links both entities, providing check-in, registrations, badge printing, and other services through check-in desks at their three hotels, Rosen Plaza, Rosen Centre, and Rosen Shingle Creek. Meanwhile, the Rosen Centre recently debuted the Banshoo Sushi Bar.

  • A $65 million renovation of all guest rooms, public areas, and restaurants is slated for completion in December at the 750-room Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress in Lake Buena Vista.

  • In September, the 1,094-room International Plaza Resort & Spa near SeaWorld Orlando became the DoubleTree Resort Orlando-International Drive following a $35 million makeover that included its 60,000 square feet of meeting space.

  • The 2,000-room Orlando World Center Marriott Resort & Convention Center, which has a total of nearly 500,000 square feet of meeting space, has connected its 105,000-square-foot Cypress Ballroom and 50,000-square-foot Palms Ballroom to create 150,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit space.

  • The 750-room Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando recently completed a renovation of all its 42,000 square feet of meeting space.

  • The Kissimmee Gateway Airport has completed a $2.5 million enhancement program at the facility that includes two paved runways. The Kissimmee Air Museum, featuring a 10,500-square-foot hangar with a 400-square-foot meeting room, is available for special functions.

West Coast

  • The 16-story, 255-room Westin Tampa Bay Rocky Point, with 6,500 square feet of meeting space, opened in July.

  • The 608-unit Innisbrook Resort & Golf Club near Tampa recently completed a $26 million renovation.

  • Slated to open in late 2010 is the 18-story, 225-room Waldorf Astoria Sarasota, the centerpiece for The Proscenium, a mixed-use project. The new hotel will feature 38,000 square feet of meeting space, and direct access from the hotel's ballroom to the Nederland Performing Arts Center.

  • In September, the 237-unit Colony Beach & Tennis Resort, on Longboat Key near Sarasota, closed its hotel, shops, fitness center, and conference center.

Trip Tips

  • Grande Lakes Orlando (Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott) opened the Grande Lakes Adventure Course, a multilevel structure ideal for teambuilding, with 25 traversing and climbing elements. Also on site: two 600-foot zip lines and a 40-foot giant swing. www.grandelakes.com

  • Universal Orlando Resort's Meeting Events division offers several unique teambuilding activities, including a Fear Factor Cook-Off Challenge; a Scavenger Challenge through theme parks; and Universal In-Production, which gives groups an opportunity to write, produce, and star in a one- to two-minute video. www.uomeetingsandevents.com

Ask the CVB

Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
(800) 544-0414
www.daytonabeachcvb.org

Kissimmee CVB
(407) 847-5000
www.floridakiss.com

Orlando/Orange County CVB
(407) 363-5872
www.orlandoinfo.com/meetings

Tampa Bay & Company
(813) 223-1111
www.visittampabay.com

St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area CVB
(877) 352-3224
www.floridasbeach.com

At Walt Disney World, Chef Cat Cora, a star on the Food Network, opened Kouzzina by Cat Cora, a Mediterranean-style restaurant at Disney's Boardwalk Resort, in September.