*It's been a decade since the American Dental Association convened its annual meeting in Honolulu. Back in 1989, there was no convention center. "We put a convention center roof over Waikiki," chuckles James H. Sweeney, group associate executive director, business, technical, and meetings services.

Taking a brief break from his myriad duties during the ADA's October convention, Sweeney reminisced about when the ADA had to build outdoor, tented areas and take over every meeting room and hotel lobby in the city in order to accommodate its annual meeting. Needless to say, revenues that year went down.

This time around, Honolulu was ready. Drawing 32,000 attendees and 750 exhibiting companies, the ADA's convention was the largest the new facility had hosted. And it handled the challenge with ease, according to Sweeney.

The Hawaii Convention Center, which opened in July 1998, sports 200,000 square feet of exhibit space, 49 meeting rooms, and a 36,000-square-foot ballroom.

Equipped with satellite videoconferencing capability, fiberoptic cable for high-speed Internet access, and category 5 pair cabling for efficient in-building telecommunications, the center is wired to accommodate the technological needs of today's conventions.

Graced with a rooftop garden, a 70-foot waterfall, coconut palms, and lava rock formations, the center reflects Hawaii's tropical ambience, while artwork highlights the region's fascinating, multicultural history.

Many of the participating hotels hosted ADA events, including the 800-room Ilikai Hotel/Hotel Nikko Waikiki, which offers 25,000 square feet of meeting space, and the 1,240-room Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island, which provides 50,000 square feet of indoor and 100,000 square feet of outdoor meeting space.

Although in the past planners have been concerned about Hawaii's image as a resort junket destination, those concerns should now be put to rest, according to James Youngblood, vice president, meetings, publishing, and science resources, American Heart Association. With increasing globalization, it becomes more important for associations to attract attendees from the Pacific Rim and Japan. "You can justify Hawaii on that alone," he said.

Other groups booked at the convention center include the National Medical Association, the Pacific Basin Economic Council, Lions Club International, and most major meeting industry associations, including the Professional Convention Management Association and Meeting Professionals International.