JUST OPENED In May, Portland, OR's new Fifth Avenue Suites Hotel opens downtown with 82 guest rooms, 135 550-square-foot suites, and four grand suites. The property is being constructed in the 1912 Lipman Wolfe building, most recently a department store, and will offer 4,500 square feet of meeting space as well as a fitness center and spa.
Tropical Florida has a new property: The Key West Hilton Resort & Marina opened in January overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, with 178 guest rooms and 5,200 square feet of meeting space. The resort provides shuttle service to Sunset Key, a private island 500 yards off the coast with a sand beach and beach club.
COMING ATTRACTIONS The Hyatt Regency Wichita broke ground in March, with plans to open its doors in fall 1997. The 300-room, 18-floor property will be adjacent to the Century II Convention Center on the east bank of the Arkansas River. Facilities will include 12,000 square feet of meeting space, two Regency Club floors, a health club and swimming pool, and two restaurants.
Disney's Garden Pavilion will open in May offering convention groups a new Lake Buena Vista special event venue. Designed by Michael Graves, the open-air facility has two connected circus-tent­p;style pavilions-8,500 square feet and 13,500 square feet in area-next to Disney's BoardWalk Resort and surrounded by exotic landscaping, beach, and patio.
TIME FOR A FACELIFT The Hamilton (Bermuda) Princess Hotel will complete a $4 million renovation in May that reduces the pool wing from 102 rooms to 64 rooms, 33 of which are oversized with living rooms, separate shower and tub, and balcony or terrace.
The Hyatt Regency Atlanta completed in February a $35 million expansion and renovation of its meeting and public spaces. The 1,279-room downtown property added a 30,000-square-foot Centennial Ballroom, a 40,000-square-foot exhibit hall, and 19 meeting rooms. While the project was not initiated because of the Olympics, the 1996 Summer Games prompted its timely completion.
This summer, the 735-room Marriott's Marco Island Resort and Golf Club will complete a $5.1 million renovation and expansion that includes 2,400 square feet of new meeting space. The project also updates the property's soft goods; renovates the Grand Ballroom; and adds a children's pool, among other improvements.
A major renovation of the 1,407-room Grand Hyatt New York began in early April and is scheduled for completion at the end of August. As part of the improvements, a new health club will be built in the 35-floor penthouse.
The Mark, on New York City's Upper East Side, recently completed a $4.1 million facelift of the public areas and 180 guest rooms.
JOINING FOLDS San Francisco's Parc Fifty Five Hotel has a new name. The Crowne Plaza Parc Fifty Five is now the largest in Holiday Inn Worldwide's Crowne Plaza line, with 1,009 rooms and 21,000 square feet of conference space. . . . The St. Anthony Hotel in San Antonio, TX also has rebranded as the Crowne Plaza St. Anthony Hotel.
Princess Hotels International has taken over management of the Glitter Bay and Royal Pavilion resorts in Barbados. The properties will keep their names but will be marketed collectively as Pemberton Princess Hotels.
The Village at Breckenridge - A Wyndham Resort added that tag to its name in February. The Colorado resort has 277 units and has recently upgraded its meeting space.
The Grand Hotel in Washington, DC, became The Westin Hotel, Washington, DC in February, bringing Westin back to the capital after a six-year absence.
What does it feel like to have 650 tons of glass suspended over your head? When the Delta expansion opens at Nashville's Opryland Hotel in May, guests will walk beneath 175,000 square feet of glass ceiling.
ON LOCATION: BAL HARBOUR BASH CELEBRATES RENOVATION By David Erickson
What do you do when the biggest hotel in town completes a $52 million renovation during the town's 50th anniversary year?
If the hotel is the Sheraton Bal Harbour, and the town is the little Florida Gold Coast enclave of Bal Harbour, you throw a party, of course. And what a party: rock'n'roll stars, a Gianni Versace fashion show, fireworks, skydivers, cigar-rolling demonstrations, champagne tasting, magicians, and mermaids-with all proceeds to support the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, a leader in spinal injury research.
The most immediately obvious change to the property is the beachfront area. The huge swimming pool and sunbathing areas have undergone a $12 million transformation into a water theme park, complete with water slide, flume, and waterfall. The new pool snakes like a river around gazebos and under pedestrian bridges, creating a series of separate areas for outdoor functions. The design permits three or four small groups to hold cocktail receptions or dinners in the same area without feeling as though they are on top of each other.
All 655 rooms and 53 suites have been renovated, as have the hotel's five restaurants and lounges. The Bal Harbour Beach House, a 250-seat oceanfront bar and restaurant, and al Carbon, an upscale South American/Mediterranean theme restaurant with an Argentine chef, are new.
The hotel's 73,000 square feet of meeting space have also undergone renovation, including the 17,000-square-foot Grand Ballroom and the 20,000-square-foot Nautilus exhibit hall. A junior ballroom, ten meeting rooms and an executive center with four rooms for board meetings comprise the rest of the breakout space.
With the renovations have come new policies for booking meetings. In years gone by, Sheraton would allow groups to book the entire hotel. Now, the hotel plans to limit group sizes to 300 during peak season (roughly January through April) and to 450 during low season.
MUCH ADO ABOUT DISNEY INSTITUTE By Patricia Wargocki
Being at the Disney Institute is like going to camp," is how one guest described his three-day experience at the dedication of the new Disney Institute. This is no ordinary camp, though. Guests at the lakeside enclave at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, FL bunk in comfortable townhouses or bungalows (more than 800 persons can be accommodated) and eat gourmet meals at the Seasons Dining Room.
The best part, however, is that guests choose from 60 programs and workshops daily-a clever alternative for planners who want to offer a group experience, but individualize each person's experience. Programs run the gamut from experimenting with computer animation software to paddling canoes into a Florida swamp to using herbs for healthier meals.
"The Disney Institute offers our guests the thrill of creative challenges," said Michael D. Eisner, chairman and chief executive officer of the Walt Disney Company. "They will collaborate with artists, and enjoy a wonderful variety of entertainment and the amenities of a first-class resort. It's smart fun."
For the dedication weekend, March 1 to 3, a number of celebrities were invited to perform or hold workshops. Among them were actor James Earl Jones, who gave an introduction to animation; Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, who shared candid opinions on films and filmmakers with Martin Scorcese; and tap dancer Savion Glover, who showed off his unique brand of funk and jazz dance.
The Institute's expansive, campus-like setting has 28 program studios (animation and rehearsal studios are located in one complex, while another houses the design arts and culinary studios, and a closed-circuit television and radio station). The Institute also has a broadcast-quality performance center, a 1,150-seat outdoor amphitheater, a 38,000-square-foot fitness center with a full-service spa, tennis courts, and a golf course.
During a visit (there is a three-day minimum stay), there are eight different areas to explore, including entertainment arts, sports and fitness, lifestyles, story arts, culinary arts, design arts, the environment, and performing arts.