Meeting managers visiting the Pittsburgh booth at the American Society of Association Executives Annual Meeting in Orlando in August got a preview of the stunning new David L. Lawrence Convention Center, now under construction. The $328 million center will provide 335,000 square feet of exhibition space (250,000 square feet of which is column-free), 49 meeting rooms, 37 loading docks, and a 35,000-square-foot ballroom and is expected to be completed in March 2003. Among its notable design features is the curved surface of the roof, which reflects the graceful curves of three nearby suspension bridges spanning the Allegheny River. The center is also among the first in the U.S. to incorporate high-performance "green" features, such as natural daylight and ventilation. Missed the model at ASAE? Call the Greater Pittsburgh Convention and Visitors Bureau (800/359-0758) and ask for a CD-ROM or go to www.visitpittsburgh.com.

Transformations The six-level, 377,000-square-foot Grimaldi Forum in Monaco welcomed its first major conference in September. The center, built over the Mediterranean Sea in the Larvotto Quarter of Monte Carlo, offers 107,000 square feet of exhibit space and numerous meeting spaces. Among them are The Salle des Princes, a 1,900-seat auditorium with a 10,760-square-foot stage and a 600-seat balcony; two additional auditoriums that seat 400 and 800 guests; Espace Ravel, a multifunction room with natural lighting that can hold more than 200 trade show booths; and 11 modular spaces that convert to 23 breakout rooms accommodating from 10 to 200 attendees.

The $74 million, 300,000-square-foot Palm Beach County Convention Center is scheduled to open in May 2003. The center will have a 100,000-square-foot exhibit hall, a 25,000-square-foot ballroom, and 30,000 square feet of breakout space. The 21-acre site, which includes space for a 400-room hotel, is opposite the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts.

Construction began in August on the Dallas Convention Center expansion and renovation, expected to be completed in July 2002. At that time, the center will offer more than one million square feet of exhibit space, with more than 726,000 square feet of contiguous space. A highlight is the new 203,000-square-foot Exhibit Hall F, a column-free hall with 40-foot ceilings. In addition, the DCC will add a 44,000-square-foot pre-function lobby; a 55,000-square-foot pre-function lobby, a completely renovated East Lobby, and a total of 105 renovated meeting rooms. A new bus drop-off will facilitate movement to and from the facility.

Destination Crown Center, a meeting location joining together the Hyatt Regency Crown Center and the Westin Crown Center in Kansas City, Mo., this year opened the new 52,000-square-foot Crown Center Exhibit Hall. The hall, which brings total meeting space to nearly 140,000 square feet, can be divided into two distinct meeting spaces. Together the two hotels offer 1,460 guest rooms, including 90 suites.

Capital Expo in Chantilly, Va., recently opened a 15,000-square-foot high-tech conference center with seven rooms of approximately 1,200 square feet each and ISDN and T1 Internet connections. The entire 200,000-square-foot exhibit facility also was upgraded to offer high-speed Internet access.

A $68 million convention center is planed for East Rutherford, N.J. The Wildwoods Convention Center will open in late 2001 with a 75,000-square-foot exhibit hall; 11,100 square feet of ballroom space; 4,800 square feet of meeting space; plus retail space and a boardwalk.

The new $600 million Diplomat Resort Country Club & Spa is under development in Hollywood, Fla. Set to open in January 2001, the complex will include 1,000 guest rooms in twin towers. Opening adjacent to the hotel in spring 2001 will be a 209,000-square-foot convention center featuring a 50,000-square-foot Great Hall. The project also includes a northern Italian villa - style Country Club, which is now open and offers a John Lee - designed golf course, 10 tennis courts, and a 30,000-square-foot European spa and fitness center.

The Henderson Convention Center in Henderson, Nev., has completed an extensive interior design renovation. The 33,000-square-foot center can accommodate 1,000 attendees theater style.

Opryland Hotel Nashville has begun a three-year renovation in consultation with meeting planners. Topping the list: making it easier for meeting attendees to find their way around the property. Addressing this issue, new electronic directional signs. as well as kiosks, will be in place by the end of the year. Renovations have also started on the Cascades Lobby, the main check-in area of the hotel. Next year upgrades will begin on the Magnolia Lobby, enabling guests to check in at the original lobby. The Governor's Ballroom has been renovated and the Presidential Ballroom is next. By the end of 2001, all 600 original rooms will be completely renovated, with the addition of double phone lines, cordless phone, and Internet and fax access.

In other Opryland news , ground was broken this summer on Opryland Hotel Texas, set to open in Grapevine in spring 2003, 15 minutes from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. The 1,500-room property will offer 400,000 square feet of meeting space and four acres of Texas-themed entertainment, all under a glass dome.

Two Orange County (Fla.) Convention Center hotels have changed their names. The 1,334-room Rosen Centre (formerly the Omni Rosen) and the 800-room Rosen Plaza (formerly the Clarion Plaza) have come together under their owner's newly created company, Rosen Hotels & Resorts. The hotels are located adjacent to the center and minutes from most of Orlando's major attractions.

The 400-room Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina, is set to open in December 2001 on 400 acres of Maryland's Eastern Shore. The resort will offer The Golf Club at River Marsh, an 18-hole course designed by Keith Foster; an 18,000-square-foot health spa and fitness center; and a 150-slip marina. Next to the fitness center is a multi-level outdoor aquatic playground with a 1,200-foot river ride, and a year-round indoor pool area. The marina will offer chartered fishing cruises and boat rentals.

Meeting in the Garden of Good and Evil Referred to by the locals as simply The Book, the best-selling Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt, dramatized in colorful detail Savannah's eccentric personality and historic appeal, and put Savannah on the tourist destination map. Now Savannah is working its charm on meeting attendees as well. In June, the Healthcare Convention & Exhibitors Association held its annual conference in the city's two newest meeting facilities.

The Savannah International Trade & Convention Center opened in May on Hutchinson Island, a two-minute water-taxi ride to the city.The center fronts the Savannah River, offering fascinating views, and it offers planners 100,000 square feet of exhibit space and 50,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 25,000-square-foot ballroom, a 400-seat multimedia auditorium, and 17 classroom-size meeting rooms and intimate boardrooms. The center is equipped with category 3 and category 5 data capability and multiple fiber-optic connections. The facility is ideal for smaller meetings of up to 2,500 people.

Next door, The Westin Savannah Harbor Resort offers 403 guest rooms and three flexible meeting areas - the largest is an 11,500-square-foot ballroom. Adjacent to the hotel is The Club at Savannah Harbor, featuring an 18-hole championship golf course and a Greenbrier Spa.

Puerto Rico's Grand Vision Ground was broken in April for the new Americas World Trade District, a $600 million public/private investment that represents one of the largest waterfront urban developments undertaken in the U.S. At the center of the 110-acre district will be the new Puerto Rico Convention Center, a World Trade Center, a first-class headquarters hotel and casino, lush parks, promenades, and a restaurant-lined Grand Canal.

The waterfront convention center, developed with the help of a team of U.S. meeting planners, will open in three phases. The first, scheduled for the fall of 2003, will include a 150,000-square-foot exhibit hall, a 40,000-square-foot meeting space, and a 40,000-square-foot ballroom. The site is at the tip of Isla Grande, formerly the San Juan Naval Station and Coast Guard base. It is convenient to Old San Juan, as well as the international airport, and the Condado hotel and tourist district.

The aim of the new district? To position Puerto Rico as a first-class business destination. "We are entering a new level of the game and playing in a new league," says Jose A. Corujo, executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company. Projections developed for his agency estimate the center will draw 242,000 attendees in just its first year of operation. "The economic impact of this development is huge for Puerto Rico," he says, noting that Puerto Rico is ideally positioned to become a leading business center for commerce and conventions, given its central location between North America and Latin America.