On Location The Lucayan Many people call it "Freeport" after its capital city, but Grand Bahama Island, just a 52-mile hop from Florida's eastern coast, has much to offer beyond its downtown area. Tourists are starting to get the idea, heading off on world-class bonefish expeditions and ecotourism trips. But how could GBI capture a larger share of the meetings market? After a five-year effort, the answer is now under construction: the new Lucayan Harbour Plaza Resort. GBI officials predict that the $250 million Lucayan project will reposition their island as a premier meeting destination.
A short drive from downtown Freeport, the Lucayan promises to offer a world of its own. And, from what I experienced of the first phase, Reef Village (formerly the Grand Bahama Beach Hotel), which opened in April, it will deliver on that promise. Named for the original American tribe that thrived on the island before Columbus set sail for the new world, the Lucayan Resort is keeping to its roots with bright Caribbean colors, furnishings, and artwork.
The 550 guest rooms, seven-plus acres of white sand beach, newly renovated 18-hole Lucayan Country Club course, and Camp Lucaya for the kids are all up and running. The next two phases, on track for completion in winter 2000, will add more than 40,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 17,000-square-foot ballroom. Also in the works: two hotel wings with 800 rooms and suites, a registration area, a full-service spa, tennis facilities, The Reef Club course (an 18-hole Robert Trent Jones Jr. design), a casino, shopping center, movie theater, restaurants, and two additional themed pools. --Sue Pelletier
NEW AND IMPROVED The Los Angeles Marriott Downtown has completed a $6 million renovation that expanded its Concierge Level rooms to three floors and renovated all 469 guest rooms. Also new is the 2,000-square-foot Marriott Health Club. The hotel offers more than 25,000 square feet of meeting space.
As part of a $3 million program, the Sheraton Meadowlands Hotel & Conference Center in East Rutherford, N.J., has added an IACC-certified conference center. The only facility of its kind in the Meadowlands area, the new conference center is part of a project that also will renovate guest rooms and public spaces. The facility opened this month with more than 26,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space. The hotel is targeting business meetings, particu-
larly in the pharmaceutical market.
Phase one of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center Expansion in San Antonio is complete--a newly constructed section that is a state-of-the-art meeting facility. Phases two and three of the $194 million project will extend the San Antonio River Walk through the center and bring the center's total contiguous exhibit space to 440,000 square feet. Completion is set for 2001.
Marriott Conference Centers has taken over management of the Kingsgate Conference Center at the University of Cincinnati. The 20,000-square-foot center offers a 5,355-square-foot ballroom, two boardrooms, and two amphitheaters. The center has fiber optics throughout and T1 lines in meeting rooms, which are connected to all 206 guest rooms.
The 283-room Hilton Vancouver Metrotown is open in Burnaby, B.C., 20 minutes from downtown Vancouver. It is part of The Crystal, a development that also includes 22,500 square feet of meeting space and 210,000 square feet of retail space. The hotel itself offers 15,000 square feet of meeting space with high-speed Internet access.
About 15 meeting planners took part in a fam trip to Boise, Idaho, in September. One of the activities included white-water rafting on the Payette River, courtesy of Cascade Raft Company. The group also visited the Doubletree Riverside and Downtown hotels, Courtyard by Marriott, the Owyhee Plaza Hotel, and the Holiday Inn, as well as the Ameritel Spectrum, the Boise Art, Historical & Black History Museum, and the Discovery Center. Another highlight was a visit to the Old Idaho Penitentiary and Botanical Gardens, one of the area's more popular meeting venues.