Sweeping curves of glass greet visitors to the newly renovated Anaheim Convention Center (www.anaheimoc.org), giving the facility what the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau calls “a sophisticated, yet casual Southern California feel.” In truth, the dramatic contours feel somewhat closer to 23rd-century Star Trek. The lobby spires up 190 feet, and the registration and pre-function areas open up like balconies to the atrium towers. With all the new space, Anaheim now boasts the largest convention facility on the West Coast.

The renovation of the convention center and the opening of Disney's California Adventure theme park this past February are cornerstones of Anaheim's new garden district, The Anaheim Resort, where the city has widened streets, added extensive landscaping, and unified and beautified the signage.

The center's $177 million renovation began in 1996 and was completed last December. This latest of three renovations since the facility opened in 1967 brings total floor space to 1.6 million square feet. Of that, 815,000 square feet are allocated to exhibit space; 200,000 square feet to pre-function areas; and 130,000 to meeting rooms, including the 38,058-square-foot ballroom.

Las Vegas-based Smart City Networks provides connectivity to the center. To the outside world, data travels on the equivalent of a T3 line to and from Qwest. Within the building, Smart City has built a unified wired/wireless network that provides 10 Mbps throughput. The technology for the unified network is based on the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers' 802.11b standard for wireless local area networks.

Distributed throughout the center are 47 wireless access points, each of which can support 250 users. Users need 802.11b cards in their portable laptops or handhelds to access the Internet, but these cards are quickly becoming common.

“We can support devices using Windows 95 through 98, NT 2000, Linux, the Apple Powerbook, and several other interfaces. Any kind of 802.11b device can be connected,” says Smart City's director of wireless services, Patrick Sarcinella. “We can even set up virtual LAN connectivity in a single room,” Sarcinella says. Privacy is ensured by dividing the 10 Mbps bandwidth into separate channels and varying frequencies through the center so that there's no overlap among users. High-level encryption assures security.

However, for anyone who wants wired connectivity, Sarcinella explains that the company works to meet those needs. “With a few months' notice, we can give customers bypass networks for whatever they want,” he says. If the customer's equipment is incompatible with 802.11b, Smart City can provide bridges to convert ordinary Ethernet to the 802.11b format.

The Anaheim Convention Center network can be extended to event hotels by installing antennas on the roof of the convention center and the relevant hotels. With this option, participants can use the network throughout a conference or event.

At this point, individuals who want to access the network make their way to Smart City's service desk and pay $125 for an IP address. Within about a year, Smart City hopes to bypass the trip to the service desk, allowing attendees to log on to the network anywhere in the center and use a credit card to purchase connectivity by the hour, day, event, or presentation.

Even Mr. Spock might be impressed.

Walk to 4,000 Rooms

Need rooms? The woman to talk to at the Anaheim Convention Center is Colleen Cornett, director of convention housing. There are 4,000 rooms within walking distance of the center, 18,000 in Anaheim, and 50,000 in Orange County.

Cornett has two Web-based housing and registration systems to offer groups: the center's in-house reservation system and the new Passkey.com system, installed in October 2000.