AFTER MORE THAN TWO YEARS of construction, the newly expanded Oregon Convention Center in Portland opened in April. The facility has doubled in size, making it the largest in the Pacific Northwest, with 255,000 square feet of exhibit hall space, two ballrooms, and 50 meeting rooms on an 18-acre campus in the heart of Portland. The expansion was built with environmental concerns foremost in mind. Eighty-five percent of construction waste was recycled, and more than a quarter of all building materials are made from recycled material. The expansion's “cool roof” minimizes heat, and runoff from the roof is collected into the park-like Rain Garden, where a series of ponds cools and filters the water before returning it to the nearby Willamette River.

The new, 2.3 million-square-foot Washington, D.C. Convention Center opened on schedule in March. The largest building in Washington and one of the 10 largest convention centers in the United States, it has nearly 725,000 square feet of exhibit space and 125,000 square feet of meeting rooms — more than twice the exhibition space of the old center. At least five of the events booked for 2003, including the North American Society of Pacing and Electrophysiology, are too large to have gone into the old building.

Georgia International Convention Center celebrated its grand opening in June. The center, in College Park near Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport, is a 400,000-square-foot facility with the largest ballroom in Georgia, at 40,000 square feet. The GICC's 150,000 square feet of meeting space can be divided into four separate column-free halls. The 9,800-square-foot Culinary Arts Center can serve 4,000 meals at one time. GICC will be the centerpiece of Gateway Center, a multipurpose complex with new hotels, office buildings, a consolidated rental car facility for Hartsfield, and a People Mover from the airport to the GICC.

Groundbreaking for the Virginia Beach Convention Center took place in June. It will be constructed in the same location as the present Pavilion Convention Center and will encompass 505,000 square feet, including a 143,000-square-foot exhibition hall, a 31,029-square-foot ballroom, and 28,929 square feet of meeting space. The Pavilion will remain open during the the first phase of construction, scheduled for completion in summer 2005. Phase I will include 57,700 square feet of exhibit space, the ballroom, and close to 20,000 square feet of meeting space. The rest of the exhibit and meeting space should be completed by January 2007.

In Fort Wayne, Ind., groundbreaking took place May 1 for the expansion and renovation of Grand Wayne Convention Center. The $27 million expansion incorporates a new 50,000-square-foot multipurpose convention hall, a 10,000-square-foot ballroom, and 15,000 square feet of flexible meeting space. The current facility will operate through June 2004; completion of the project is expected in spring 2005.

Construction will begin in January on the $160 million expansion and renovation of the Cincinnati Convention Center. The 750,000-square-foot redesigned center will include nearly 200,000 square feet of exhibition space, more than 45,000 square feet of flexible meeting space (able to be configured into as many as 37 rooms), a 40,000-square-foot ballroom, and a 17,500-square-foot junior ballroom. An expanded loading dock will have 17 berths. The existing facility will also be renovated during the process, which is expected to be complete in mid-2006. The center will remain open throughout construction.

The $47 million Overland Park, Kansas Convention Center opened in November with 60,000 square feet of exhibition space, plus 25,000 square feet of banquet space and 15,000 square feet of meeting space. A 25,000-square-foot outdoor courtyard, between the center and the Sheraton headquarters hotel, can be used for outdoor exhibits. The center has booked 254 events for 2003.

In Aberdeen, Scotland, the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Center completed a major expansion and renovation in April. The main plenary hall capacity was increased to 2,000 delegates, and the auditorium gained 200 additional seats, now boasting a total of 500 seats. Two multipurpose halls, with capacities of 685 and 700, were added, along with 23 new breakout rooms.

Headquarters Hotels

A 1,500-room, $500 million Marriott headquarters hotel is slated to open by early 2007 adjacent to the new 2.3 million-square-foot Washington D.C. Convention Center.

In Charlotte, N.C., the 700-room Westin Charlotte officially opened its doors in May. The Westin Charlotte is not considered a headquarters hotel, says a CVB spokesperson, but it is the largest hotel in the city and is directly across from the Charlotte Convention Center.

The Columbia (S.C.) Metropolitan Convention Center will open in August 2004, and a 300-room Hilton hotel is scheduled to be built adjacent to it, opening in spring 2005.

In Myrtle Beach, S.C., the 402-room Radisson Plaza Hotel Myrtle Beach Convention Center opened in January adjacent to the expanded Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

For two years, the Rhode Island Convention Center Authority has been campaigning for money to build a companion hotel to the state-owned Westin Providence, adjacent to the center. At the end of April, the Authority announced it wants to be the majority owner of another hotel near the center and full partners with the developer. The proposed 392-room hotel would probably be a Sheraton.

Construction is underway on the 620-room, $110 million Louisville Marriott Downtown Hotel, which will be connected to the Kentucky International Convention Center. The convention center will also have connections to the Hyatt Hotel and the Galt House Hotel & Suites. The Marriott is expected to open in spring 2005 with 44,000 square feet of meeting space.

A proposed hotel of at least 400 rooms is planned adjacent to the Fort Worth (Texas) Convention Center, which wrapped up another expansion in April. At press time, nine developers werer vying to build the luxury hotel. Hilton, John Q. Hammons, and Omni are among the hotel companies hoping to be part of the winning bid.

A 1,200-room Hilton Americas hotel, connected to Houston's George R. Brown Convention Center, will open in November after the opening of an expansion bringing more than one million square feet of exhibit space to the center.

A $110 million, 800-room Hilton convention center hotel will open in Austin, Texas, by January 2004 adjacent to the newly expanded Austin Convention Center.

The 450-room Hilton Omaha (Neb.) will open by April 2004, just six months after the new Omaha Convention Center opens in September.

The Portland (Ore.) Development Commission is seeking proposals for an 800-room hotel in the Oregon Convention Center Urban Renewal Area. If a deal can be struck without public monies, a hotel could open by early 2008.

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