Pittsburgh's new David L. Lawrence Convention Center is not one of the centers opening across the country with little business booked. The grand opening is scheduled for September, but the center has been hosting groups since March, even though construction isn't complete. On the day of our press tour, forklifts were whizzing around the exhibit hall, and the whine of saws was deafening.

Greater Pittsburgh CVB's executive vice president, Robert Imperata, says that the CVB had hoped to attract 20 conventions to the facility for the last nine months of 2003. Instead, 27 booked — more than double the number the old center usually hosted. When it was obvious that the building wouldn't be finished in time for some events, they made sure all building safety regulations were met and then temporarily cleared construction for groups to use the center.

The new center is not an expansion. After as much was salvaged as possible, the old center was imploded and the cement and walls reused as a foundation, saving hundreds of thousands in landfill and material costs. That was the start of a “green” building, with an exhibit hall and meeting rooms using daylight for illumination and outside air for heating and cooling.

Westin Hotels will hang its flag on a new 400- to 500-room convention hotel, to be built on the opposite side of the center from the existing 625-room Westin Hotel Pittsburgh Downtown.