The newly expanded Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego now lays claim to being Southern California's largest hotel. On the water's edge, 18 boat slips away from the San Diego Convention Center, the Grand Hyatt has added the new 33-story Seaport Building and a new four-story connecting building (with a rooftop pool and 25,000-square-foot deck) to the original Harbor Building. The hotel now has 1,625 guest rooms, including 95 one- and two-bedroom suites. More than 80 percent of the rooms are on non-smoking floors.

An additional $9 million in funding was approved in August for the new Virginia Beach Convention Center, bringing the total that will be spent to $202.5 million. The additional funding will allow for increasing the size of the facility and adding such amenities as wood finishes in the ballroom and ballroom pre-function space, extensive landscaping, and high-tech lighting. The additions to the budget are earmarked to expand the Exhibit Hall from 142,200 square feet to 150,000 square feet and add an additional 300 parking spaces. A total of 2,400 free parking spaces will be available. Also now in the budget is $107,000 for skylights at the Exhibit Hall entrances; and $900,000 for a state-of-the-art video wall. The new center will be constructed in the same location as the present Pavilion Convention Center, which will remain fully operational during the the first phase of construction, scheduled for completion in summer 2005. The balance of exhibit and meeting space is expected to be completed in January 2007.

The Greater Richmond Convention Center in Richmond, Va., opened the doors on its $165 million expansion and renovation project earlier this year. The expansion brings total space to almost 700,000 square feet, including 180,000 square feet of exhibit space, a 30,000-square-foot ballroom, and 50,000 square feet of meeting space in 32 rooms. The center, which also has a 258-seat auditorium, is attached to a 414-room Marriott hotel.

The Amarillo (Texas) Civic Center reopened last April with an additional 70,000 square feet of meeting, exhibit, and banquet space, bringing the total space to nearly 340,000 square feet. The column-free, 24,500-square-foot North Exhibit Hall features 25-foot ceiling clearance. Floor boxes for electrical and telecommunication services are on 30-foot centers. Wiring includes fiber-optic cables. The North and South Exhibit Halls combined will have space for up to 305 10-foot-by-10-foot exhibit booths. A new 20,700-square-foot ballroom seats nearly 1,100 for a formal dinner and 2,000 theater-style.

A summer 2005 opening is projected for the Puerto Rico Convention Center, the centerpiece of a $400 million project on a 113-acre site on San Juan's waterfront. The 580,000-square-foot convention center will feature a 152,700-square-foot exhibition hall, a 39,500-square-foot ballroom (the largest in the Caribbean), and 36,200 square feet of meeting rooms. (See page 110 for more details.)

Iberostar Hotels & Resorts will open a convention center this December, 25 minutes south of Cancun International Airport on Mexico's Riviera Maya. Iberostar Paraiso Convention Center will have 70,000 square feet of space that can be divided into seven separate meeting rooms. There will be seven boardrooms, a business office, and high-speed Internet access. The center will be able to accommodate as many as 1,000 people.

Hotel News

In September, the City of Saint Charles, Mo., broke ground on the $36 million, 265-suite Embassy Suites Hotel — Saint Charles. It will be adjacent to the planned Saint Charles Convention Center, 10 minutes from Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. The 11-story, all-suite hotel is scheduled for a January 2005 opening. The new convention center and hotel combined will add more than 144,000 square feet of meeting space to the area.