An unprecedented construction boom has seized the city of Calgary, in the western province of Alberta. It's a boom fueled in part by plans to expand and renovate the city's aging convention center.

Nine new hotel hotels are either confirmed or completed in the Calgary area, among them the 326-room Sheraton Hotel, rising next to the Eau Claire Market and slotted to open in September. The Sheraton was the first major hotel development in the downtown core since 1981.

Moreover, an entire city block is being redeveloped, including the construction of a 22-story, 350-room Hyatt Regency hotel complex by Balboa Land Developments Ltd., with a target opening date of spring 2000. On the same block, plans have been approved for the expansion of the city's Telus Convention Centre (formerly the Calgary Convention Centre), also slated to open in 2000. The projects share complementary exterior designs, and will blend with the renovation of several connecting heritage buildings on the same block.

The city's burgeoning economy has attracted more head offices and businesses, and this growth has been a large factor in the push for convention center expansion. Still, the expansion will put this city of 800,000 people in the middle, not the leading edge, of convention center growth in Canada. A 50,000-square foot expansion is planned for the convention center, which currently has 56,000 square feet of leasable space. Compare that with the size of other Canadian convention centers: The Winnipeg Convention Centre in Ontario has 150,000 square feet of function space, the B.C. Pavilion in Vancouver has 90,000 square feet (with plans to expand to 250,000 square feet), and the Shaw Conference Centre in Alberta's Edmonton has 82,000 square feet of leasable function space.

Also in the news in the Calgary hotel development front:

* Two major upscale hotel developments are being proposed for the downtown core: A Hilton hotel and the Grand Hotel. Developers are still negotiating the financing.

* Downtown Calgary hotels are renovating and expanding: The Palliser Hotel, the city's oldest major hotel, has added a swimming pool and larger fitness center. The 383-room Calgary Marriott Hotel, connected to the convention center, is planning a multimillion dollar renovation of guest rooms and public areas, as is the Sheraton Cavalier. The Ramada Hotel Downtown has added two executive floors and redecorated its conference space and lobby, while the Holiday Inn completed a major renovation of its 166 guest rooms and 22 suites. Plans call for a complete renovation of downtown's historic Alberta Hotel.

* A 118-room Four Points Sheraton has opened across from Canada Olympic Park in the city's northwest region.

There are currently 8,700 hotel rooms in Calgary, with about 3,400 of them in the downtown core. With the confirmed hotels complete, the total will rise to 10,437, with 4,092 in the downtown area.

To keep pace with Calgary's heady growth, the city's international airport plans a major expansion over the next two decades, including the extension of Air Canada's terminal and increasing taxiways and customs and immigration facilities.

For more information on the city, contact the Calgary Convention & Visitors Bureau at (800) 661-1678.

ROCKY MOUNTAIN RAILTOURS GOES INTERACTIVE Rocky Mountain Railtours has a new Web site at The site includes an easy-to-use travel planner, slide show, and a 1998 color brochure. Moreover, users can input preferred travel dates, departure city, budget requirements, and other travel criteria, and receive on-screen information on those tours that match up. (Railtours offers 25). Users can also e-mail reservations from the site.

Rocky Mountain Railtours began operations in 1990, and is the largest privately owned passenger rail operator in North America, running tours between Vancouver, British Columbia, and the Alberta destinations of Jasper, Banff, and Calgary. Tour packages include hotel accommodations, and special group packages are available. For information, call (800) 665-7245.

TORONTO HOTELS IN THE NEWS The Inn at Manitou in Toronto has opened a Golf Academy this June for guests, with special emphasis on golf instruction for women. The inn also features extensive spa and tennis amenities and packages. For more information, contact the facility at (416) 245-5606.

Novotel Toronto Airport, one mile from Pearson International Airport, is introducing a day meeting package for groups of ten or more. The cost of the meeting package is just under $30 (CAN$42) per person. For more information, contact the hotel at (416) 798-4168.

Get your shoes shined for free at the 380-room Four Seasons Hotel Toronto. The hotel helps its guests stay one step ahead with a shoeshine team that uses some 63 pounds of shoe polish a year. Just leave your shoes outside your hotel room and they will be returned buffed and delicately wrapped by 7 a.m.

Andrew Poultney has been named director of operations for the year-old National Trade Centre in Toronto. Previously, Poultney was director of operations for both the Indiana Convention Center and the RCA Dome. He is, however, a native Torontonian.