The opening of the newly expanded Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City was marked with a four-day celebration for the grand opening of the facility, including fireworks, folk festivals, free concerts, a laser light show, a parade down Main Street, a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and a comedy and magic show.

The expanded convention center now has 256,000 square feet of exhibit space, a 36,000-square-foot ballroom, and 51 meeting rooms, which can accommodate groups of 30 to 1,800. The downtown facility is within walking distance of hotels that can provide 3,500 first-class guest rooms. More than 90 restaurants are a few blocks away, with shopping malls, art, sports, and historical attractions nearby.

"We wanted to go after more medical and high-technology groups," says Jeri Cartwright, vice president, communications for the Salt Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau, "so the needs of these groups were integrated into the design of the convention center expansion." For example, the facility's 19 loading docks have higher, wider drive-in doors for easy access, plus ramps that lead directly from the street, and two separate dock access points in the ballroom.

Most of the Salt Palace's halls have infinite load floors. Electric and communications service is found on the hall's 30-foot centers, with fiberoptic lines available for high-resonance video signal transmission.

A six-story tower marks the entrance to the facility, and skylights and hundreds of windows throughout produce a bright atmosphere for events. Wall and floor coverings and furniture are convention hotel grade. A 40-foot-high glass wall on one side of the exhibit hall provides delegates a second-floor aerial view of tradeshow activity.

One hundred meetings, conventions and trade shows have been scheduled to use the $85 million convention center between 1996 and 2002.