In addition to a climate that welcomes outdoor events year-round, Southern California has all the sets, venues, costumes, and actors needed to serve up even the largest creative theme events for insurance groups. In the land of the movies and the Mouse, the possibilities often seem limitless. The biggest of the coming attractions? A $4.2 billion new "Californian" resort complex is growing around Disneyland, looking toward completion in mid-2001. In Los Angeles, a $385 million undertaking to renovate Mann's Chinese Theater and create an extensive new entertainment complex by the spring of 2001 is under way. It will be the new home for the Academy Awards. And west of Los Angeles, a renovation of Palm Springs International Airport has spurred additional flights to the California desert resorts.
Anaheim/Orange County The Anaheim Resort Complex taking shape on 1,100 acres surrounding Disneyland will include a new theme park called Disney's California Adventure, an expanded Anaheim Convention Center, and a deluxe 750-room hotel, Disney's Grand Californian.
hotel news * The 321-room Radisson Resort Knott's Berry Farm debuted in January as Knott's first on-site hotel following a $28 million acquisition and renovation project. The hotel includes 20,000 square feet of meeting and event space.
* Disney's Grand Californian Hotel, anticipated to be completed by December 25, 2000, will have 750 rooms and 22,000 square feet of meeting space.
* In August, the Hilton Garden Inn, with 169 rooms and 1,287 square feet of meeting space, opened in Garden Grove.
* New in October 2000 will be a 384-room Mission-themed Crowne Plaza Resort with 28,000 square feet of meeting space in Garden Grove.
* The Doubletree Hotel at the Irvine Spectrum opened in July with 252 rooms and 4,000 square feet of meeting space.
* By December 2001, Ritz-Carlton will open a 301-room hotel in Irvine.
important info Anaheim/Orange County Visitors & Convention Bureau * (714) 765-8888
* Fax: (714) 991-8963
* Total Hotel Tax: 22.75%
Santa Monica An $8 million coastline project has restored Santa Monica's beaches with new walls and abalone shell walks, increased Chess Park's five tables to 40, restored Palisades Park, and refurnished Muscle Beach with new fitness equipment.
hotel news * Le Merigot Santa Monica Beach Hotel opened this past August with 175 guest rooms, 12,000 square feet of meeting space, and the luxurious Spa Le Merigot.
* In late summer the 129-room Casa Del Mar opened to recreate the 1920s opulence of its heyday as Club Casa Del Mar when Los Angeles' gentry cavorted at the club reputed to have the wildest nightlife on the beach.
* Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel is undergoing an $18 million renovation of its exterior and all 340 guest rooms, including reconstruction of the hotel's entrance and lobby.The renovation will be completed this fall.
important info Santa Monica CVB * (310) 319-6263;
* Fax: (310) 319-6273
* Total Hotel Tax: 20.25%
Pasadena Fifteen minutes north of downtown Los Angeles, Pasadena will level a 1970s mall this spring to build Paseo Colorado, a $130 million urban village with outdoor cafes, restaurants, a gourmet market, and retail shops to open in spring 2001 across from the Pasadena Conference and Exhibition Center.
hotel news * A 314-room Courtyard by Marriott will debut this spring in Old Pasadena, with 6,000 square feet of meeting space. It is the first hotel in the historic entertainment and shopping district.
* The 296-room Hilton Pasadena completed a $5 million renovation in October, including five additional guest rooms and the elegant San Marino room with 3,000 square feet of meeting space.
important info Pasadena CVB * (626) 795-9311;
* Fax: (626) 795-9656
* Total Hotel Tax: 20%
Long Beach/Huntington Beach/Newport Beach The second phase of the $100 million Queensway Bay Project to redevelop 300 acres of Long Beach oceanfront will break ground in March and include an entertainment, dining, and retail area targeted for completion in May 2001. Meanwhile, Miami-based Carnival Corp. has agreed to construct and operate a cruise ship terminal in Long Beach next to the Queen Mary, with completion in spring 2001. The Long Beach Museum of Art is currently undergoing a multimillion-dollar expansion that will double its exhibit space and create a new gallery building that will also house a banquet hall. The expansion is slated for completion in September.
hotel news * The nine-story D'Orsay Hotel breaks ground this summer and is anticipated to be completed in fall 2001. It will feature 162 suites, a health club, and an adjacent 35,000-square-foot retail center.
* The renovation of the Queen Mary's public rooms and 365 hotel staterooms as well as new heating, air conditioning, plumbing, and electrical systems is currently under way.
* The Long Beach Marriott will add 105 rooms to its 311. It is located adjacent to the Long Beach Airport. The expansion is scheduled for completion in fall 2001.
* In Huntington Beach, Hilton is scheduled to open the Ocean Grand Resort & Conference Center in 2001 with 500 rooms and 5,200 square feet of meeting and event space.
* In November, the 93-year-old Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel and Spa installed high-speed Internet access ports in all 392 guest rooms. The hotel has an 11,200-square-foot ballroom, two large meeting rooms, and three boardrooms.
* The Four Seasons Newport Beach purchased its next-door neighbor, the Twin Palms Restaurant, and will convert it into a special event and banquet venue, with 10,000 square feet of space, and with an anticipated finish date of June.
* A $50 million, 430-room, as-yet unflagged hotel will be built on the corner of Pine Avenue and Ocean Boulevard, slated for completion in spring 2002.
important info Long Beach Area CVB * (800) 452-7829;
* Fax: (562) 435-5653
* Total Hotel Tax: 20.25%
Newport Beach CVB * (949) 722-1611, (800) 94-COAST
* Fax: (949) 722-1612
Los Angeles Staples Center, a $175 million sports and entertainment complex, opened in October. Add to that the openings of the Los Angeles Center Studios this year, the LAPD Museum, and the Disney Concert Hall in 2002 and the forecast for downtown LA venues is bright.
hotel news * The LA Arena Company is currently deciding which firm will build and operate a 1,000- to 1,500-room hotel on the 28 acres across from the Staples Center. The hotel could be open by late 2003.
* The Old Bank District near 4th and Spring streets will include the 150-room El Dorado Hotel, which is scheduled to open in the summer of 2001.
* By late 2003, Cathedral Place will offer a 75-room boutique hotel, as well as a new performing arts center located in the old St. Vibiana's Cathedral.
* In November, Starwood Hotels opened W Los Angeles Westwood in the former Westwood Marquis Hotel and Gardens. The 258-suite hotel has seven meeting and banquet rooms.
* The Four Points Hotel Los Angeles International Airport began operations at midnight on New Year's Eve, kicking off the year 2000 after a $17 million renovation of the 573-room former Continental Plaza. The hotel is a quarter-mile from LAX and has 14,800 square feet of meeting space.
important info Los Angeles CVB * (213) 236-2357;
* Fax: (213) 236-2395
* Total Hotel Tax : 22.25%
Palm Springs A $20 million Palm Springs International Airport expansion was completed in November 1999.
hotel news * Marriott's Rancho Las Palmas Resort wrapped up a two-year, $32 million renovation this past October.
* In June the 512-room Westin Mission Hills Resort in Rancho Mirage will begin construction on a 35,000-square-foot conference center, with completion slated for January 2001.
important info Palm Springs Desert Resorts CVB * (760) 770-9000;
* Fax: (760) 770-9001
* Total Hotel Tax: varies by community from 16.75% to 18.75%
San Diego hotel news * In March the Hyatt Regency San Diego began an 875-room tower expansion, scheduled to open in 2001. In addition, the hotel renovated half its existing 875 guest rooms in 1999 and will complete the rest by mid-2000. It has 45,500 square feet of conference space and 25,192 square feet of exhibit space.
* The Doubletree Golf Resort San Diego added two meeting rooms and completed a $5.2 million upgrade of its 174 guest rooms in November.
* The 111-year-old Hotel del Coronado, is in the midst of a multiyear, $50 million renovation.
important info San Diego CVB * (619) 232-3101;
* Fax: (619) 232-1707
* Total Hotel Tax 18.25%
Venue Menu * A jungle fantasy can be set in the famed San Diego Zoo with an animal handler and animal guests appearing in group picnic areas or in the Zoo's four-story Treetops meeting and banquet facility, which can seat groups up to 250 people. Contact the San Diego CVB.
* In Palm Springs, the Uprising Outdoor Adventure Center has partnered with Aquarius Training and Development to construct a new High Adventure Ropes Course Team Building facility where groups from 5 to 5,000 persons can participate in programs extending from a half day to three days. (888) 254-6266
* Los Angeles Center Studios is slated to debut six sound stages with 72 attached dressing rooms when phase one premiers this year.
By 2001, the $105 million project will be expanded to encompass more than 900,000 square feet, including a full-service commissary, a 550-seat theater, screening and meeting rooms, a film storage vault, and eight additional stages. (323) 966-2001
* The LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department) Historic Museum and Community Education Center is scheduled to open this year with thousands of police memorabilia on display. The facility will house a substation, an education center, and rooms suitable for meetings in the now-vacant Highland Park stationhouse. The meeting room at the museum will accommodate 65 to 70 attendees. By 2002, a 150-seat amphitheater will be built. (323) 344-9445
Insurance Conference Planners Say "Our meetings alternate between mountain destinations and golf destinations," says Kim Ketcham, meeting planner, Standard Insurance, Portland, Ore. "California is a natural for golf. There are so many places to go that have golf and other activities." Ketcham brought a recent Leaders Club conference to La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, Calif. One of the highlights of the meeting was "a blowout black-and-red party at La Costa, where attendees were asked to come as their favorite spy."
With the help of destination management company PRA, Ketcham also found a compelling off-site restaurant, Maitre D', in La Jolla, that she bought out for one evening. "It's entertaining like you can't believe, and our attendees loved it! The owners sing and dance. The whole evening is a floor show," says Ketcham, who describes the restaurant's decor as "tacky French garage sale. It's very dramatic."