From the Ground Up Construction will begin this summer on The Westin Portland (OR), a 200-room, 20-story hotel in Portland's downtown retail district. When the property opens in the third quarter next year, facilities will include between five and seven meeting rooms (5,000 square feet total), a business center, a health club, and a restaurant.

Las Vegas is at it again. The Venetian, the newest mega-resort underway on the strip, promises canals, piazzas, and cobbled walkways to recreate the charm of Venice. Replicas of Campanile Tower and Rialto Bridge are to be among the icons that will set the stage for the property's 6,000 suites, two 100,000-square-foot casinos, and expansive meeting and exhibit space. The hotel is linked to the Sands Expo and Convention Center, which will be expanded in the project by 400,000 square feet, bringing it to a total of 1.6 million square feet. Meeting space includes a pillarless 80,000-square-foot ballroom. The resort is expected to open in 1999.

In Maryland Heights, MO, 20 minutes from St. Louis, the huge Riverport Casino Center opened in March. A central 350,000-square-foot pavilion, themed as a turn-of-the-century Missouri riverboat town, offers restaurants, shopping, entertainment, and 10,000 square feet of convention space. The pavilion is anchored by the 291-room Harrah's St. Louis-Riverport and 120,000 square feet of gaming space in four casinos, two operated by Harrah's and two by Players.

ITT Sheraton has won its bid to develop and operate the new $198 million Sheraton Riverwalk San Antonio Hotel. The 1,200-room hotel and convention center will break ground in September 1998 and is expected to open by the end of 2000.

A Westin will break ground along San Antonio's Riverwalk later this year. The Westin Riverwalk will offer river views in 60 percent of its 453 rooms and more than 18,000 square feet of meeting space when it opens in fall 1999.

Construction begins later this year on Loews Philadelphian Hotel, a 590-room property across the street from the Philadelphia Convention Center. The $105 million project will add 40,000 square feet of meeting space to the city's inventory when it opens in mid 1999.

This fall, Wyndham expects to open a 490-room, African-themed resort in Lake Buena Vista, FL. Wyndham Safari Resort will have 4,100 square feet of meeting space when it opens and an additional 2,000 square feet by spring 1998.

Adding On In March, golfers at The Westin La Paloma in Tucson, AZ began benefiting from an alliance between Westin Hotels & Resorts and Troon Golf Management. The affiliation gives resort guests access to the Troon-managed, 18-hole course at The Golf Club at Vistoso and establishes Troon as the management of La Paloma's existing 27 holes of golf.

Nemacolin Woodlands Resort & Spa in Farmington, PA opens its 125-room Chateau Lafayette in late May. The new construction, designed in French Renaissance style, joins the property's existing 98-room English Tudor Inn and 40 condominiums. Chateau Lafayette has an 8,500-square-foot ballroom, a French bistro displaying the resort's 10,000-bottle wine collection, and a smoking parlor for the cigar crowd.

Construction is under way on 250 new oceanfront hotel rooms and 23,000 square feet of additional conference space at Amelia Island Plantation in northeast Florida. All rooms in the resort's new Inn and Beach Club facility will be equipped with a work table and a minimum of two telephone lines to meet the needs of conference attendees. The resort will have a total of 360 oceanfront hotel rooms when the addition opens in April 1998.

In Key West, FL, Pier House Resort & Caribbean Spa has added 26 new rooms and renovated 18 in a $7 million redo of its Beach Building. With the new facilities, the oceanfront property now offers 142 guest rooms, including 14 suites, and 3,000 square feet of meeting space.

Convention Center News The Wisconsin Center, a $170 million, 800,000-square-foot convention center under construction in Milwaukee, has a new name as the result of a partnership between Midwest Express Airlines and the Wisconsin Center District. The facility, now known as Midwest Express Center, will receive $9.25 million from the airline over a 15-year period. The center is expected to open in July 1998. This is believed to be the first corporate sponsorship of a non-sports-affiliated convention facility in the U.S.

In West Palm Beach, FL, the $48 million Palm Beach County Convention Center will break ground later this year on a 25-acre site opposite the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts. The 300,000-square-foot facility is expected to open on New Year's Eve 1999.

Renovation Time Marking its tenth anniversary, Marriott's Desert Springs Resort and Spa in Palm Desert, CA just completed $14 million in renovations to its pool area, guest rooms, restaurants, and lobby. The 884-room resort offers two golf courses, 51,330 square feet of meeting space, 20 tennis courts, and a 30,000-square-foot spa.

Two Wisconsin properties are getting spruced up. The Abbey Resort & Fontana Spa in Fontana, WI, is nearing completion of a three-year renovation. Among other improvements, the resort has remodeled its 10,050-square-foot ballroom, added a business center, upgraded the phone system, and redecorated the guest rooms, including bathroom fixtures, vanities, and tiles. At Lake Lawn Lodge in Delavan, WI, work is underway on phased renovation of all guest rooms, including new beds, carpeting, wall covering, draperies, and other soft goods. Upgrades to the 284-room resort's meeting space lobby, restaurant and bars, and golf course are also among the plans.

The Tutwiler Hotel, a historic property in downtown Birmingham, AL, this spring began a renovation of its undeveloped eighth floor. The hotel is spending $1 million to create a 1,900-square-foot ballroom, a 550-square-foot meeting room, a health club, and 15 new guest rooms and suites, which will bring the total to 162.

Atlantic City Convention Center Opens As fireworks exploded and streamers and confetti rained down on a cheering crowd, the new $268 million Atlantic City Convention Center officially opened for business. Meeting planners, association executives, and dignitaries, including General Norman Schwarzkopf, New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, and Miss America, were on hand for the May event.

Planners toured the new facility after the dedication ceremonies and were impressed with its computer capabilities, abundance of meeting space, and airy design.

The skylit atrium fits the seaside city well, with five huge, colorful fish dangling from the ceiling and frescos of crabs, seahorses, snails, and other marine life arrayed high along the wall. The muted steel, glass, and sand-colored granite structure has 610,000 square feet of exhibit and meeting space and 45 meeting rooms. It is said to have more exhibit space on one floor (500,000 contiguous square feet) than any other convention center between Atlanta and Boston.

The site is wired to the hilt, with fiberoptics and voice, video, and other data communication systems, enabling the instantaneous transfer of information across the building or around the world. There are high-speed Internet connections and videoconferencing capabilities.

The Convention Center is the star of Atlantic City's $7 billion renaissance. A citywide building frenzy has more than 7,000 new hotel rooms in the works.

With the convention center now open, historic Convention Hall on the Boardwalk, which opened in 1929, will get a $50 million facelift. After Miss America 1998 is crowned in September, Convention Hall will close for renovations and will reopen in time for the Miss America 1999 pageant. The facility will continue to serve as an entertainment and events arena.

The Convention Center is not yet connected to the city's beachfront Boardwalk, but construction is under way on a "Grand Boulevard" connection that will feature a cascading fountain pool and a 60-foot-tall lighthouse. The center is adjacent to the Atlantic City train terminal and half a block from a new city bus station.

Club Resorts Challenge at Barton Creek

Club Resorts, manager of several properties that combine conference resorts with country clubs (including The Homestead in West Virginia and Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina), brought a few dozen customers to see the sights and enjoy the golf at its Barton Creek property in Austin, TX. Watch for an announcement soon of major expansions plans at Barton Creek. Among the golfers at the Club Resorts Challenge, held May 13 and 14 were, left to right: Terry Pate, director of sales and marketing, Barton Creek; Susan Allen, assistant to the president, Baylor Healthcare, Houston; James Doluisio, dean, University of Texas College of Pharmacy at Austin; and Claude Dickinson, Orange County Senior Golf Association.

On Location: Fiesta at the Princess

When you make a site inspection trip to the Acapulco Princess, leave behind the beach and sun for a little while and head underground. In the beehive of broad service corridors that wend below the five free-form pools and 1,019 guest rooms of this 480-acre resort, you get a sense that the Princess is city unto itself. With everything from its own water purification system and English-language training for employees to a butchery, pastry kitchen, and employee transportation system, it's no wonder that the resort is able to deliver the first-class service that convention groups expect.

And it was the service that was most often praised by the nearly 60 meeting executives who flew down to Mexico in early May for the resort's Spring Gala, an annual event that allows Princess to show off its facilities and theme party capabilities and highlight its newest additions. In the latter category was the Atlantis Multimedia Center. The new $3 million meeting room opened in November 1996, outfitted with podium-controlled projectors and lighting, an aerial projection booth, satellite downlinking capabilities, and wireless, lavaliere, and handheld microphones, among other features. Modeled after the three-year-old Mid-Ocean Amphitheater at the Southampton Princess in Bermuda, the tiered facility seats 450 theater style and 300 schoolroom style.

Gala attendees also got a first-hand look at another recent project when the group convened in the redecorated Salon de Fiestas Ballroom for a farewell banquet. Completed in October 1996, the project added unusual Venetian cut-glass chandeliers and upgraded the air conditioning and lighting systems. Now, each of ballroom's three 5,679-square-foot sections can be controlled separately when the room is divided.

The Princess is on the Pacific Coast about 15 minutes south of downtown Acapulco, close enough for Gala guests to see the sights during the day, and head back in the evening for a visit to the discos. The resort also features an 18-hole, Ted Robinson--designed golf course (the neighboring, seasonal Pierre Marques sister property also has an 18-hole Robert Trent Jones course), as well as 11 tennis courts, including two indoor, air-conditioned stadium courts.