Free-associating “Chattanooga” never got me past that song about the “choo-choo.” So a recent press trip was a real eye-opener.

Facility tours included the Chattanooga Convention Center, which, as of mid-April, was nearly triple its original size. Exhibit space is up to 108,000 square feet, and there are 21 meeting rooms and six ballrooms. Entrances on opposite ends of the building permit hosting simultaneous, separate events.

Although the center features T1 Internet access, wireless connectivity, and programmable lighting controls, the feature that gives it bragging rights is totally low-tech: natural light. Ceiling openings in the exhibit areas let exhibitors work by natural light during setup and tear-down, and use less electricity during shows — a major cost savings. During AV presentations, ceiling shades can be lowered.