IN NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y., the 116,000-square-foot Conference Center Niagara Falls opened last June, directly across from the Seneca Niagara Casino. It features a 10,500-square-foot ballroom, a 32,200-square-foot entertainment/exhibit hall, and a 19,500-square-foot learning center. Eleven hotels with a total of 1,880 rooms and 30 restaurants are within a seven-minute walk of the conference center, which is certified by the International Association of Conference Centers.

Destination Hotels & Resorts opened Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa last summer on a 9.5-acre former estate north of San Diego. The resort has 210 guest rooms, 11 suites, and 25,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting and event space. The IACC-certified Learning Retreat has a 125-seat amphitheater and a 6,000-square-foot ballroom. The 8,000-square-foot Spa at Estancia has 11 treatment rooms and a heated outdoor pool.

Hotel Orrington, in Evanston, Ill., opened a new ninth-floor conference center in February. The 12,000-square-foot, IACC-certified conference center has 8,000 square feet of dedicated meeting space, including 13 conference rooms that can accommodate from 25 to 75 attendees. The conference center was constructed by adding a floor to the hotel (which was built in 1923), making it the only “rooftop” hotel in IACC's portfolio. The setting affords spectacular views of Lake Michigan, and enables the center to offer a private outdoor terrace off the main boardroom, as well as a terrace adjacent to the 76-seat amphitheater. The hotel has 269 guest rooms.

The 18-story, $151 million University Center in Chicago, at the intersection of State Street and Congress Parkway, opened last August. Owned by the nonprofit Educational Advancement Fund, it is both a multicollege student residence and a conference facility. The second-floor 30,000-square-foot conference center has nine meeting rooms. Summer housing accommodations are available.

Aramark's Harrison Conference Center at Glen Cove (N.Y.) finished a $7.2 million enhancement last year. The 196-room Georgian estate on the north shore of Long Island now has three dining rooms, all guest rooms and public space have been wired for T-1 Internet access, and there is a new outdoor function space: Manor Patio and Lawn Garden.

The former Merrill Lynch Conference & Training Center in Plainsboro, N.J., has been renamed Harrison Conference Center & Hotel, Princeton Forrestal Center. It was sold recently to a group of private investors. Plans call for conversion of 20,000 square feet of office space into additional meeting rooms. The center now has 37,000 square feet of IACC-approved meeting space and 350 guest rooms.

Scottsdale Resort & Conference Center, managed by Benchmark Hospitality, completed a $20 million refurbishment of all guest rooms and suites and all public areas in late 2003. Meeting space ranges from a conference suite for 10 to the 10,000-square-foot Grand Coronado, accommodating 1,000 theater-style. In total, there are 50 meeting rooms.

The Doubletree Hotel & Executive Meeting Center Portland — Lloyd Center opened an IACC-certified conference center last year. The EMC has 8,500 square feet of space with nine dedicated conference rooms, complementing the 38,000-square-feet of event and banquet space already available at the hotel.