BRAND NEW * In Cambridge, MA, the 210-room University Park Hotel at MIT topped out in September. The property, which plans to open next summer, offers the Executive Conference Center on its third floor, complete with a business center and 15,500 square feet of meeting space (including a roof-top garden). The largest meeting room is 2,418-square-feet.
* With a totem pole at its entry and hickory and pine furnishing, the new Heathman Lodge in Vancouver, WA might at first glance seem like camp. But luxury and technology upgrade the 121 rooms and 22 suites into a executive meeting site worth a close look. Rooms include Jacuzzi tubs, robes, two-line phones, data ports, and voice mail. The property can host meetings of up to 400 persons in its 6,000 square feet of meeting space.
* Westin is on schedule to open a 415-room property in Sydney, Australia by late 1999, in time for the Summer Olympic Games in 2000. The Westin Sydney will be integrated into the redevelopment of the historic Sydney General Post Office in the city's central business district. Meeting space for 1,000 persons is planned.
* Twenty minutes from Miami International Airport, The Ritz-Carlton, Coconut Grove will open in mid-1999 with 250 rooms and suites, a 12,000-square-foot ballroom, and six meeting rooms.
* Sheraton Atlantic City Convention Center Hotel opened in November with 502-rooms and not a single slot machine. In fact, the property is the city's first major convention hotel without a casino. It's attached to the new Atlantic City Center by covered skywalk.
RENOVATION AND EXPANSIONS * Opryland USA will shut down its theme park after the holiday season to make way for an Opry Mills. Opry Mills, a $200 million entertainment and retail complex, is one of six initiatives in a new Opryland enhancement plan. The mega-resort also plans a major refurbishment of the Grand Ole Opry House, improved access between the 2,883-room Opryland Hotel and other Opryland USA facilities, expansion of the Cumberland Landing docking area to include themed dining and entertainment, a new 40-acre family attractions area, and expansion of its broadcast facilities (which is home to numerous radio and television networks) into a broadcast-oriented attraction area. The Grand Ole Opry and Opry Mills are slated for completion in 2000.
* The Savoy Group has completed a $100 million restoration of its five Great Britain hotels--The Connaught, The Savoy, The Berkeley, and Claridge's, all located in London, and The Lygon Arms, in Worcestershire, England. Highlights of the project, begun in 1995, include refurbished guest rooms, public areas, and meeting rooms; new meeting facilities with state-of-the-art communications systems at The Berkeley and Claridge's; the addition of a Christian Dior spa, Europe's first, at the fully refurbished Berkeley Health Club; and seven new deluxe double rooms and two new penthouse suites (all with 24-hour, private butler service) at Claridge's.
NEW IDENTITIES * Patriot American Hospitality's acquisition of Wyndham Hotel Corp. is expected to be completed by the end of the year, bringing with it changes for some Patriot American properties. The recently acquired The Buttes Resort in Tempe, AZ, for example, will now be called The Buttes--A Wyndham Resort and will get $5 million for renovating guest rooms and common areas. The Buttes offers 30,000 square feet of indoor meeting space, including a 140-seat amphitheater. Another Patriot American hotel, Crowne Plaza Miami-Biscayne Bay converted in November to the Wyndham Hotel Miami-Biscayne Bay.
* As of mid-October, the Sheraton Key Largo (FL) Beach Resort became the Westin Beach Resort, Key Largo. The property has 200 rooms and offers a beach, marina, swimming pools, two tennis courts, access to a nearby golf course, and approximately 8,800 square feet of meeting space.
* Marriott Riverwalk and Marriott Rivercenter: It can be tough to keep the two San Antonio properties straight. But now the distinctions between them may not be so important. The hotels will be marketed together, giving planners one contact person for both hotels. Employees in sales, customer service, and food and beverage will also work together. Combined, the properties have 1,500 rooms and 70,000 square feet of meeting space. (And by the way, it's the Rivercenter that's adjacent to the mall.)