The $211 million DeVos Place convention center opened its doors in December, encompassing a total area of one million square feet in the heart of Grand Rapids, Mich. The 162,000-square-foot exhibition hall is the size of three football fields, making it the second-largest convention facility in Michigan. The center's 40,000-square-foot ballroom, to be completed in early 2005, will seat 3,250 people for banquets.

Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Fla., celebrated its grand opening in January. The two-level center is sited on 19 acres three miles from Palm Beach International Airport. Meeting space includes the 100,000-square-foot exhibit hall, the 25,000-square-foot ballroom, and 23,000 square feet of flexible breakout space, divisible into 23 rooms.

Construction began in December on an expansion of the Ocean Center Convention and Entertainment Complex in Daytona Beach, Fla. The $50 million project will add 100,000 square feet of exhibit space, 40,000 square feet of meeting space, and a 30,000-square-foot ballroom. The completion date for the project, which will triple the size of the center, is set for January 2006.

The opening of the new $122 million Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center in Tacoma, Wash., is slated for November 2004.The convention center, in the heart of downtown, will have 76,000 square feet of meeting space; a 51,500-square-foot main exhibit hall with contiguous, column-free space; a 13,650-square-foot ballroom; 11,200 square feet of meeting space/breakout rooms; and pre-function areas with views of Mount Rainier and Commencement Bay. The center will be nearly five times as large as the current 14,336-square-foot Bicentennial Pavilion, a block away, which will continue to serve small convention groups until the new center opens; it will then be renovated to provide an auxiliary meeting space. Also under construction is a new Courtyard by Marriott, directly across the street from the new center. The $12 million hotel will have 152 guest rooms and suites, and 7,000 square feet of meeting space.

In Hampton, Va., the Hampton Roads Convention Center is under construction and set to open in January 2005. The sprawling complex will feature 344,000 total square feet of convention and exhibit space, 35 meeting rooms with capacity for 14,000 delegates, a 108,000-square-foot exhibit hall with oversized freight-loading doors, and a grand ballroom with banquet seating for more than 2,000. Connected to the center by a covered walkway, a John Q. Hammons Embassy Suites Hotel is also scheduled to open in 2005. With more than 300 suites, the hotel will bring the number of hotel rooms near the convention center campus to 2,099.

Gaming News

On Flamingo Road in Las Vegas, Westin opened its first hotel in Nevada in November. The 825-room Westin Casuarina Hotel & Spa, at the site of the former Maxim Hotel just off the Strip, has 15,000 square feet of meeting space. The hotel has a spa, pool, a 20,000-square-foot casino, and a 200-seat showroom. A $75 million renovation and upgrade was done over the past year.

The 2,543-room Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas will break ground soon for a $31 million expansion of its Pavilion Convention Center, which will add 60,000 square feet of convention space to the existing 100,000 square feet. The expansion will be completed in the fourth quarter of 2004.

At The Venetian in Las Vegas, the new Venezia hotel tower opened last June with 1,013 luxury suites. (The original all-suite tower has 3,036 suites.) By room count, the Venetian now claims to be the third-largest hotel in the world, with 18 restaurants, a convention center, and an art museum all under one roof.

Showboat — the Mardi Gras Casino in Atlantic City has added a 19-story tower to house more than 500 hotel rooms. The Showboat has also completed a $5.3 million high rollers' lounge and a $17 million restaurant complex.

The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is set to open in April in Hollywood, Fla., with 500 rooms and a 130,000-square-foot casino. Meeting space will total 25,000 square feet and include a 16,000-square-foot ballroom.