Meeting developments are going
strong in the Lone Star State.
Many of the big hotel and meeting- and convention-related projects under way in Texas continue to forge ahead, despite the recession. In Arlington, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, not satisfied with building just any old stadium, will in 2009 preside over the opening of the largest domed structure in the world. At over 650,000 square feet, the new stadium will have a standard capacity of 80,000 people, with the potential to host up to 100,000. And, of course, the new facility will have suites and clubs available for special events.
Fort Worth and San Antonio have new convention center hotels, and San Antonio is also in the middle of a $200 million expansion of its best know attraction, the River Walk.
Galveston continues to recover from the effects of Hurricane Ike last summer. The vast majority of its hotels are open and a number of city attractions are back online. And in a $7 million restoration project, more than 400,000 cubic yards of sand will be added to a stretch of Galveston beach.
But, like the rest of the country, Texas has not been immune to the effects of the current economic crisis. A number of projects have been put on hold, including the construction of a planned 1,000-room convention center hotel in downtown Austin.
The new 340-room Westin Austin at the Domain is expected to open in June 2010. The property is part of a massive retail project that will include 14,000 square feet of meeting space anchored by Dick's Sporting Goods and Neiman Marcus.
The Hyatt Regency, on the shores of Lady Bird Lake, is just finishing renovations to its lobby and public areas, existing meeting rooms, and the ballroom. The hotel is also opening a new restaurant, Southwest Bistro.
Construction has begun on Block 21, a project that includes a 250-room W Hotel, 25,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, and a new 2,000-seat venue for the public television music show “Austin City Limits.”
The 122-year-old Driskill Hotel is undergoing a $4.5 million renovation to its 189 guest rooms. Custom iron beds emblazoned with the Driskill “D” logo will remain in place, but all new mattresses and bed linens are being added, as well as plasma-screen televisions. Six of the rooms are being remodeled to conform to ADA standards, while another six will feature special amenities for hearing-impaired guests.
The AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center at the University of Texas at Austin opened in August with 297 rooms. The center has 40,000 square feet of dedicated meeting space, made up of a 300-seat tiered amphitheater, a divisible ballroom that can seat 800, seven classrooms, five conference rooms, 12 breakout rooms, and two restaurants.
The 500-room Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa in San Antonio unveiled 10,000 square feet of additional meeting space in January bringing the resort's total meeting space to 43,000 square feet. The new Rogers-Wiseman Pavilion, a semi-permanent venue, can accommodate up to 1,000 attendees.
A new Residence Inn by Marriott opened in November. The 117-room hotel is seven miles from downtown Abilene and five minutes from the Abilene Regional Airport. The all-suite hotel offers studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom suites, each with coffee maker, microwave oven, full-size appliances, and high-speed Internet. The hotel also has 500 square feet of meeting space for small meetings and functions for up to 30 guests.
The Dallas City Council recently voted that Omni Hotels should run the publicly owned, $500 million convention center hotel, which could break ground later this year. The hotel will be adjacent to the Dallas Convention Center. Plans call for the construction of a 1,000-room hotel with 100,000 square feet of meeting space, and a 720-car garage.
The Gaylord Texas Resort, in Grapevine, is planning a $315 million expansion, which, when completed, will make the resort the largest in Texas. The resort now has 1,511 guest rooms and 400,000 square feet of meeting space. The expansion plan includes a 12-story hotel tower that will add 500 guest rooms, 200,000 square feet to the convention center, more parking, a new resort pool, and other recreational amenities.
After bringing Dallas' landmark 1,606-room Anatole Hotel under its flag in 2006, Hilton Hotels launched a $30 million renovation of the mega property. Its 341,000 square feet of meeting space includes six major ballrooms, 76 meeting rooms, five boardrooms, three theaters, and the Trinity Exhibition Center.
The historic Stoneleigh Hotel & Spa completed a $36 million renovation project in 2008 to its 170 guest rooms and suites, restaurant and bar, and 5,200-square-foot spa.
The Renaissance Dallas Hotel has begun a multimillion-dollar renovation that will include remodeled guest rooms and the addition of more than 30,000 square feet of meeting space. The final phase of the renovation, scheduled to be completed in 2010, will increase meeting space to 50,000 square feet from its current 19,000 square feet and will add a 16,000-square-foot ballroom.
The Omni Fort Worth Hotel opened in January. Located on Houston Street, across from the Fort Worth Convention Center, the new hotel has 614 rooms and 68,000 square feet of meeting space.
A joint Crowne Plaza and Hotel Indigo project is scheduled to open in 2010 in Las Colinas. The Irving hotels will have separate entrances but share the same building, including some public spaces such as the fitness center and swimming pool. The Hotel Indigo will feature its signature design elements, and the Crowne Plaza will provide 8,000 square feet of meeting space.
On Lake Ray Hubbard in Rockwall, 22 miles from downtown Dallas, the 231-room Hilton Bella Harbor opened in spring 2008 with 25,000 square feet of meeting space. Among its amenities is the largest hand-made, wooden vessel in North America, The Seawolf, a 50-passenger, 40-foot catamaran.
The Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas is scheduled to open in 2010. The 275,000-square-foot center will have 50,000 square feet of column-free exhibit space, a 20,000-square-foot ballroom, and 20 breakout rooms.
Several new properties have recently opened in Frisco, including a 102-room Hilton Garden Inn, a 109-suite Comfort Suites, and the 136-room boutique property aloft Frisco. With the three new hotels, Frisco now offers meeting planners 10 properties and 1,500 rooms to choose from.
Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, known for its extensive indoor waterpark, opened a new 20,000-square-foot conference center in January, accommodating up to 615 people in the largest ballroom for a reception. With 203 new guest suites included in the expansion, Great Wolf now offers a total of 605 suites.
Le Meridien Dallas North is scheduled to open in the Galleria in April. The stylish 258-room property will have eight meeting rooms with banquet space for up to 150 people.
Moody Gardens Hotel, Spa, and Convention Center sustained minimal damage from Hurricane Ike, which hit Galveston in late summer 2008. With over 100,000 square feet of meeting and convention center space unaffected by the hurricane, the resort was able to start welcoming business groups back to the property by the second week of October. Most of the Moody Gardens attractions are back online as well, including the Aquarium Pyramid, Ridefilm Theater, Colonel Paddlewheel, The Discovery Museum, and the IMAX 3D Theater. The Rainforest Pyramid is expected to reopen in the first half of 2009.
A 262-room Embassy Suites Hotel is schedule to begin construction in March in downtown Houston, near the George R. Brown Convention Center. The new all-suite hotel will have 6,000 square feet of meeting space, a rooftop swimming pool, restaurant, and a street-level café and wine bar. Each room in the new hotel will have two flat-panel televisions.
Previously the Wyndham Greenspoint, the Hilton Houston North has fully renovated its 480 guest rooms. The hotel has also revamped its restaurants and meeting space. It now offers 51,000 square feet of meeting space, including the 4,420-square-foot Hilton Conference Center.
The Westin Houston, Memorial City is accepting group reservations prior to its scheduled November opening date. The 267-room hotel is connected to the Memorial City Mall near Houston's CityCentre area. It will feature 10,000 square feet of meeting space and two ballrooms.
The Sheraton Houston West Hotel opened in November with 158 guest rooms and three meeting rooms. Baseball USA is three miles away.
The Westin La Cantera Resort is just finishing a $10 million project that will include renovations of all guest rooms and public spaces on the resort banquet level. La Cantera Resort features 39,000 square feet of meeting and function space.
Construction continues on the new JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa, expected to open in March 2010. The $500 million, 1,000-room mega-property will include 138,000 square feet of meeting space, a water park, a spa, six restaurants, and two championship golf courses designed by Pete Dye and Greg Norman.
The 1,003-room Grand Hyatt San Antonio opened in March 2008. The 37-story convention center hotel offers 115,000 square feet of outdoor and indoor meeting and function space.
The St. Anthony Hotel — which celebrates its 100th birthday in 2009 and, over the last century, has hosted guests ranging from Eleanor Roosevelt and Princess Grace to Fred Astaire and John Wayne — is renovating its 352 guest rooms. The hotel has 22,200 square feet of meeting space, including the 3,621-square-foot Anacacho Ballroom.
Discovery Green, a 12-acre park, has opened in downtown Houston with a one-acre lake, children's playground, interactive water features, an outdoor amphitheater stage, public art works, open lawns, and restaurants. Its proximity to the George R. Brown Convention Center should make it a peaceful urban oasis for convention attendees.
Everyone remembers the Alamo, but a more significant, if less remembered, battle took place a month later at San Jacinto, just outside of present-day Houston. This battle secured Texas' independence in 1836 and is commemorated on the battlefield site by the world's tallest memorial, a 570-foot obelisk, which is 15 feet taller than the Washington Monument.
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Dallas' Union Station has been the city's major train stop since its construction in 1916. Now, after the recent completion of a $23 million renovation of the second-story meeting hall, Union Station has become a premier meeting and function space as well. The project restored the building's original brick walls, cast-iron facades, and quarry-tile floors, while the second and third floors, along with the mezzanine, were reconfigured into 20,000 square feet of meeting space, including eight function rooms. Wolfgang Puck Catering is partnering with the Hyatt Regency Dallas to operate the station's new event space. (214) 741-7825
Austin's Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum now has dedicated space for meetings and functions. The museum, which has three floors of interactive exhibits, the Texas Spirit Theater, and the city's only IMAX theater, offers views of downtown Austin and the state capitol. The meeting space can be reserved for evening events and can accommodate up to 400 guests for dinners and 600 for receptions or theater seating. (512) 936-8746, www.thestoryoftexas.com
The Old Chisholm Trail used to run through the Beaumont Ranch in Grandview, Texas. Today, it's still a working cattle ranch and caters to individuals and groups. Located 30 minutes outside Dallas and Fort Worth, the ranch has 17 bed-and-breakfast rooms, a full-service spa, 40,000 square feet of meeting space, paintball courses, trail rides, an on-site café, and full-service catering. (888) 864-6935, www.beaumontranch.com
The Corinthian is a dramatic special-event venue on the first floor and mezzanine level of one of Houston's architectural jewels. In a magnificent 1905 neoclassical building near the city's theater district, the Corinthian can seat 1,000 for dinner and host as many as 2,000 for receptions. (713) 222-2002, www.thecorinthianhouston.com
Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck opened in Dallas last February. The 150-seat restaurant rests atop Reunion Tower, the city's 560-foot landmark. It is celebrity chef/restaurateur Wolfgang Puck's first fine dining establishment in the city. Diners can gaze upon 360-degree views of Dallas through the floor-to-ceiling windows while enjoying Chef Puck's signature dishes, such as his chinois chicken salad and spicy tuna tartare in sesame-miso cones. (702) 369-0360, www.wolfgangpuck.com
On the 48th floor of Thanksgiving Tower in downtown Dallas, with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on the city, the Tower Club is available for groups of up to 350 attendees for banquets and dinner meetings, or functions of up to 1,000 guests using the entire facility. The Tower Club recently completed a renovation of its main event spaces, adding state-of-the-art communication and entertainment sound systems, as well as videoconferencing capabilities and a new restaurant. (214) 953-3066, www.thanksgivingtower.com