Many of the big hotel and meeting- and convention-related projects under way in Texas continue to forge ahead, despite the recession. In Arlington, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, not satisfied with building just any old stadium, will in 2009 preside over the opening of the largest domed structure in the world. At over 650,000 square feet, the new stadium will have a standard capacity of 80,000 people, with the potential to host up to 100,000. And, of course, the new facility will have suites and clubs available for special events.
Fort Worth and San Antonio have new convention center hotels, and San Antonio is also in the middle of a $200 million expansion of its best known attraction, the River Walk.
Galveston continues to recover from the effects of Hurricane Ike last summer. The vast majority of its hotels are open and a number of city attractions are back online. And in a $7 million restoration project, more than 400,000 cubic yards of sand will be added to a stretch of Galveston's beach.
But, like the rest of the country, Texas has not been immune to the effects of the current economic crisis. A number of projects have been put on hold, including the construction of a planned 1,000-room convention center hotel in downtown Austin.
Construction should begin soon on the 340-room Westin at the Domain. The new hotel is part of a massive retail project that will include 14,000 square feet of meeting space and will be anchored by Dick's Sporting Goods and Neiman Marcus.
AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center at the University of Texas at Austin opened in August with 297 rooms and suites. The center has 40,000 square feet of meeting space.
Construction has begun on Block 21, a project that includes a 250-room W hotel, 25,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, as well as a new 2,000-seat venue for the public television music show “Austin City Limits.”
The Dallas City Council recently voted that Omni Hotels should run the publicly owned, $500 million convention center hotel, which could break ground sometime in 2009. The hotel will be adjacent to the Dallas Convention Center. Plans call for a 1,000-room hotel with 100,000 square feet of meeting space, and a 720-car parking garage.
On Lake Ray Hubbard in Rockwall, 22 miles from downtown Dallas, the 231-room Hilton Bella Harbor opened in spring 2008 with 25,000 square feet of meeting space.
The Gaylord Texan Resort, in Grapevine, is planning a $315 million expansion, which will make the resort the largest in Texas. It now has 1,511 guest rooms and 400,000 square feet of meeting and convention space. The expansion plan includes a 12-story hotel tower that will add 500 guest rooms and an additional 200,000 square feet to the convention center.
The Renaissance Dallas Hotel has begun a multimillion-dollar project that will remodel guest rooms and add more than 30,000 square feet of meeting space.
The Omni Fort Worth Hotel is scheduled to open in January 2009 across from the Fort Worth Convention Center. The new hotel will have 607 rooms and 68,000 square feet of meeting space.
A joint Crowne Plaza and Hotel Indigo project is scheduled to open in 2010 in Las Colinas. The Irving hotels will have separate entrances, but share the same building, including some public spaces. The Crowne Plaza will provide 8,000 square feet of meeting space.
The Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas is scheduled to open in 2010. Part of a mixed-use entertainment complex, the convention center will anchor the site. The 275,000-square-foot center will have 50,000 square feet of column-free exhibit space, a 20,000-square-foot ballroom, and 20 breakout rooms.
Several new properties have recently opened in Frisco, including a 102-room Hilton Garden Inn, a 109-suite Comfort Suites, and the 136-room boutique property aloft Frisco.
A 262-room Embassy Suites Hotel is scheduled to begin construction in March in downtown Houston, near the George R. Brown Convention Center. The new all-suite hotel will have 6,000 square feet of meeting space.
Construction continues on the new JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa, expected to open in March 2010. The $500 million, 1,000-room property will include 138,000 square feet of meeting space, a waterpark, spa, six restaurants, and two championship golf courses.
The 1,003-room Grand Hyatt San Antonio opened in March 2008. The convention center hotel cost $285 million and has 115,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor function space.
Sidebar: Trip Tips
Discovery Green, a 12-acre park, has opened in downtown Houston with a one-acre lake, children's playground, interactive water features, an outdoor amphitheater stage, public art works, open lawns, and restaurants. Its proximity to the George R. Brown Convention Center should make it a peaceful urban oasis for convention attendees.
Everyone remembers the Alamo, but a more significant, if less remembered, battle took place a month later at San Jacinto, just outside of present-day Houston. This battle secured Texas' independence in 1836 and is commemorated on the battlefield site by the world's tallest memorial, a 570-foot obelisk, which is 15 feet taller than the Washington Monument.
Sidebar: Ask the CVB
Abilene Convention & Visitors Bureau
Arlington Convention & Visitors Bureau
Fort Worth CVB
Galveston Island CVB
Greater Houston CVB
San Antonio CVB
Sidebar: Special Venues
Dallas' Union Station has been the city's major train stop since its construction in 1916. Now, after the recent completion of a $23 million renovation of the second-story meeting hall, Union Station has become a premier meeting and function space as well. The project restored the building's original brick walls, cast-iron facades, and quarry-tile floors, while the second and third floors, along with the mezzanine, were reconfigured into 20,000 square feet of meeting space, including eight function rooms. Wolfgang Puck Catering is partnering with the Hyatt Regency Dallas to operate the station's new event space. (214) 741-7825.
Austin's Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum now has dedicated space for meetings and functions. The museum, which has three floors of interactive exhibits, the Texas Spirit Theater, and the city's only IMax theater, offers views of downtown Austin and the state capital. The meeting space can be reserved for evening events and can accommodate up to 400 people for dinners and 600 for receptions or theater seating. (512) 936-8746, www.thestoryoftexas.com.
The Old Chisholm Trail used to run through the Beaumont Ranch in Grandview Texas. Today, it's still a working cattle ranch and caters to individuals and groups. Located 30 minutes outside Dallas and Fort Worth, the ranch has 17 bed-and-breakfast rooms, a full-service spa, 40,000 square feet of meeting space, paintball courses, trail rides, an on-site café, and full-service catering. (888) 864-6935, www.beaumontranch.com.