The old joke about the State Bird being the building crane must have been born in Texas. When one landmark project breaks ground, you can be sure that several others are moving forward around the state: a huge new hotel to connect to the convention center in Dallas; a bigger, better Children's Museum of Houston; a new headquarters hotel for the Fort Worth Convention Center; a 1,000-room hotel complex in Austin; a new stadium in Arlington; an extension of the River Walk in San Antonio — it never stops.

In Dallas, city council members have just approved a purchase option agreement for an 8.4 acre site across from the convention center for possible convention center expansion and for a convention headquarters hotel. Estimates for the project's cost have ranged as high as $350 million.

Meanwhile, Victory Park Dallas is in its third stage of development. Its second luxury hotel, The Mandarin Oriental, is now under construction and will soon join the W Dallas-Victory. Victory Park includes 75 acres around the American Airlines Center sports and entertainment complex, a $3 billion city within a city. The pedestrian-friendly, Wi-Fi-enhanced area has a variety of meeting venues for small to very large groups.

Farther south, San Antonio has begun a $216 million project to lengthen the River Walk from a bit more than two miles to nearly 13 miles. The river flows through downtown's central business and tourism district. Barges ferry visitors up and down the two-mile stretch, pedestrians crowd the walkways, and the River Walk is hopping 24/7. The first phase of the planned extension will bring the River Walk north to several museums, the Pearl Brewery, and other cultural attractions by 2009. The second phase will take it south to San Antonio's four Spanish Colonial missions by 2012.

In Houston, the three blocks above the George R. Brown Convention Center and Discovery Green are being transformed into the Houston Pavilions, with completion expected by year's end. The Pavilions will be home to entertainment venues, including a House of Blues, and shopping. Planners can also expect upgrades at the Children's Museum of Houston and at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, which opened a new gallery in December.

Taxas/Facilities Update

Dallas/Fort Worth

  • The Dallas Hilton Anatole recently converted its Stemmons Auditorium to a ballroom as part of the hotel's $40 million renovation. Transformed from a 1,000-seat amphitheater, Stemmons Ballroom no longer has a sloping expanse of fixed seats, but gives the hotel and meeting planners more versatile meeting space. During the next two years, the Anatole will renovate its 700 tower guest rooms and Chantilly Ballroom. The hotel has 1,606 guest rooms and 333,400 square feet of meeting and banquet space, including 79 meeting rooms and 128,000 square feet of dedicated exhibit space.

  • Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine began an expansion in November that will add 203 suites for a total of 605, and nearly quadruple the size of the conference space to 27,000 square feet. The project is expected to be complete in December 2008.

  • Mandarin Oriental, scheduled to debut in 2010 in Dallas, will include a 30,000-square-foot spa, an outdoor pool, and 9,000 square feet of meeting and event space.

  • The Sheraton Fort Worth Hotel and Spa is finishing up a $46 million transformation and is scheduled to open May 15. The property will have 430 guest rooms and suites and an 8,000-square-foot full-service spa and fitness center.

  • NYLO Las Colinas should open early next year with 200 rooms.

  • W Dallas-Victory Hotel & Residences includes 252 guest rooms as well as eight function rooms totaling more than 11,000 square feet of meeting and event space.

  • Wyndham Hotels and Resorts has opened the 282-room Wyndham DFW Airport North hotel in Irving. A $13 million renovation transformed a former Holiday Inn Select into this full-service hotel with 12,500 square feet of event space.

  • Benchmark Hospitality has announced that Lakeside Resort & Residences, under construction on Lake Grapevine in Flower Mound, will open this coming fall. Included will be 289 guest rooms, a 25,000-square-foot conference center, and a 12,000-square-foot spa and an outdoor pool.

  • The 1,842-room Adams Mark Dallas will rebrand as the Sheraton Dallas Hotel by mid-April. The property, which offers more than 230,000 square feet of meeting space, is attached via sky-bridge to a sister Starwood property, The Westin City Center, Dallas. A renovation is under way, including a redesign of guest rooms and lobbies, expected to be complete by this summer.

  • Omni is constructing a headquarters hotel for the recently expanded Fort Worth Convention Center. The Western-themed, $90 million Omni Fort Worth Hotel is expected to open in November with 607 guest rooms, 48,000 square feet of meeting space, and 97 condominiums.

  • Northeast of Dallas, the Hilton Bella Harbor at Lake Hubbard Dallas/Rockwell opens at the end of March overlooking Lake Ray Hubbard with views of the downtown Dallas skyline. The property features 231 guest rooms, each with flat-screen televisions, high-speed Internet access, and work desks with ergonomic chairs. There is more than 25,000 square feet of meeting space.

  • In Frisco, the Sheraton Stonebriar Hotel opens this month with 119 guest rooms and two meeting spaces, the largest of which is 480 square feet. Guests will have golf privileges at The Westin Stonebriar Resort's Fazio Course.

Houston

  • The Woodlands Resort & Conference Center is set to begin construction early this year on a $50 million expansion that will add 158 guest rooms; a winding, lazy river; a new entrance; and a steakhouse.

  • The Sheraton Houston West Hotel opens this summer with 155 guest rooms and more than 1,000 square feet of meeting space.

  • Omni Hotels has taken over a former Sheraton in downtown Houston and will redevelop it as a 400-room, all-suite hotel with 30,000 square feet of meeting space, a full spa, and multiple restaurants. The Omni Houston is slated to open in 2009.

  • The Warwick Hotel reopened last June as Hotel ZaZa after a multimillion-dollar renovation. The 315-room property has 17,000 square feet of meeting space.

  • The 313-room Doubletree Hotel Houston InterContinental Airport has completed a $6 million renovation. The hotel's 18,500 square feet of meeting space, including a 6,875-square-foot ballroom, has been upgraded.

San Antonio

  • Westin La Cantera Resort, home of the Valero Texas Open, will soon become an arm of Gaylord Entertainment, which also owns the Gaylord Texan Resort near Dallas. The $253 million purchase includes two golf courses on 691 acres. Gaylord has also bought 90 acres of undeveloped adjacent land and is planning a three-year, $250 million expansion that will bring the resort to 1,000 rooms and 160,000 square feet of meeting space by 2011.

  • San Antonio's Marriott Rivercenter (1,000 rooms) and Marriott Riverwalk (514 rooms) hotels will undergo $45 million in renovations this year. The Marriott Rivercenter will also upgrade 60,000 square feet of meeting space.

  • St. Anthony Hotel in downtown San Antonio has just completed a $12 million restoration upgrading all meeting areas, public space, and 352 guest rooms.

  • Got golf fanatics in your group? While naming San Antonio one of its top golf destinations, Golf Digest magazine singled out the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa for special mention as one of its Silver Medal Resorts. The resort has 500 guest rooms, 25 meeting rooms, and more than 33,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor function space.

Trip Tips

  • Some Austin streets and highways go by many different names and can be a bit confusing. (First Street runs north and south and east and west, for example.) For a primer on the lay of the land, go to austin.about.com/od/mapsofaustin/p/austinroads.htm.

  • The landmark 50-story Reunion Tower in Dallas closed in November 2007 for a year of renovation, but the lights on the tower's globe will not dim. The $55 million renovation closes the observation deck and Antares restaurant, but the Hyatt Regency will serve customers in another part of the hotel until Antares reopens on the tower's top level.

Ask the CVB

Texas Tourism
Fax: (210) 212-5800
www.TravelTex.com/meeting
www.texastourism.com

Arlington Convention & Visitors Bureau
(800) 433-5374
www.arlington.org

Austin CVB
(800) 926-2282
www.austintexas.org

Dallas CVB
(214) 571-1000
www.visitdallas.com

Fort Worth CVB
(800) 433-5747
www.fortworth.com

Frisco CVB
(972) 963-9226
www.visitfrisco.com

Galveston Island CVB
(888) 425-4753
www.galvestoncvb.com

Greater Houston CVB
(800) 365-7575
www.visithoustontexas.com

Irving CVB
(800) 247-8464
www.irvingtexas.com

San Antonio CVB
(800) 447-3372
www.sanantoniovisit.com

Special Venues

  • Would a party on an oil-drilling rig in Galveston Bay say “Texas!” to your group? At Galveston's Pier 19 sits the Ocean Star II (below left), a museum, educational attraction, and working drilling rig all rolled into one. It is available for meetings, luncheons, theme parties, and receptions. Its theater accommodates up to 35 people. The entire rig can accommodate a group of up to 500 people. (713) 975-6442; www.galveston.com/oceanstar

  • Austin's new Mexican-American Cultural Center opened in September on Town Lake. Dedicated to preserving and promoting Mexican-American cultural arts and heritage, the 126,000-square-foot center provides theaters, galleries, and classrooms where music, dance, literature, and cooking are among the arts displayed. The center also rents space for private events. (512) 478-6222; www.ci.austin.tx.us/parks/macc_index.htm

  • The French Room at the Adolphus Hotel (above right) in Dallas has grand Baroque décor and can be reserved for private events. (214) 742-8200; www.adolphus.com

  • Galveston native Michel Menard built his classic Southern mansion in 1838 as a Greek Revival showplace. The Menard House was constructed in Maine, shipped in pieces to Galveston, and sited in what was early Galveston's most exclusive neighborhood. The house provides an elegant setting for meetings, receptions, period-costume events, and special banquets. (409) 762-3933; foundation@galvestonhistory.org

  • The Hyatt Regency San Antonio recently renovated the Lonestar Palace, an event space (pictured right) overlooking the Alamo. The facility now features contemporary Texas décor and a rooftop penthouse with a 2,000-square-foot outdoor deck, full catering kitchen, and oversized outdoor grill. With three indoor seating areas, a formal conference/dining area, and the deck, it can entertain groups of up to 150 people. (210) 362-6352