Reno is much more than a Vegas wannabe, and it's getting smarter about promoting its outdoorsy add-ons. Just a 20-minute drive out of the neon-decorated downtown, the road snakes into the Sierras, and in less than an hour, you can be on the shores of Lake Tahoe, ringed by a playground of peaks, including such sublime ski resorts as Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows.
Back in town, the most significant development of late is a bill moving through the state legislature to fund a $105 million expansion of the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. If passed, the state will levy 12 percent on guest rooms rates in Reno and Washoe County, 11 percent in Sparks, beginning in July. The proposed project would nearly double the convention center, adding a 140,000-square-foot exhibit hall, 30,000 square feet of meeting room space, and a 30,000-square-foot ballroom.
In line to benefit from the expansion is the 600-room Atlantis Casino Resort under construction across the street. The property will open a new tower this spring, bringing the total guest rooms to 1,000 and adding 20,000 square feet of meeting space. Other major meeting developments around town include:
* City Center Pavilion, a 40,000-square-foot exhibit facility, opened downtown in February as a joint partnership of the Silver Legacy Resort Casino, Eldorado Hotel Casino, and Circus Circus Hotel Casino. The space was designed for special events and trade shows, and can host up to 216 10-by-10 booths.
* Reno's largest property, the 2,001-room Reno Hilton, has taken a 45,000-square-foot area that used to be a shopping mall and turned it into the Nevada Conference and Exhibition Center. The new space opened in February with 11 breakout rooms, space for 180 booths, and T1-speed Internet connections.
* South of the downtown area, the 1,070-room Peppermill Hotel Casino is also on the move. The property is adding approximately 58,000 square feet of meeting space and two restaurants, and expanding its casino. --
BRAND NEW Wyndham Hotels & Resorts recently opened the Wyndham Chicago, a 417-room hotel converted from office space on Chicago's Magnificent Mile. The American College of Surgeons owns the 544,000-square-foot high-rise, and, along with Draft Worldwide, occupies the top 10 floors of the building. The hotel offers in-room, high-speed Internet access through the hotel's own server, and 15,000 square feet of meeting space, including two ballrooms and two upscale executive boardrooms.
* The Renaissance Portsmouth (Va.) Hotel and Waterfront Conference Center has broken ground in historic Old Towne Portsmouth along the Elizabeth River. The 250-room hotel will offer more than 24,000 square feet of meeting space, including an Executive Learning Center certified by the International Association of Conference Centers. The project will be done by mid-2000.
* The Adam's Mark Indianapolis Downtown is under construction in the city's former Blue Cross/Blue Shield building. When it opens in May 2000, the hotel will offer 330 rooms, a two-story health club, and 20,000 square feet of meeting space.
RENOVATIONS AND EXPANSIONS International Conference Resorts has completed a $10 million renovation to the Hastings International Conference Center in Hartford, Conn. The 271-room property has more than 55,000 square feet of meeting space, including three amphitheaters, and teleconferencing capability in selected meeting rooms. Five dedicated computer-training rooms offer high-bandwidth connectivity. A media and business center and a 5,000-square-foot fitness center were also added.