GRAND OPENING OF SALT PALACE CENTER By Patricia Wargocki 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.

JUST OPENED An old rice mill in New Orleans's historic Warehouse District has a new calling. The turn-of-the-century building opened in May as the new Wyndham Riverfront Hotel. Just a block from the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, the property offers 202 rooms, four meeting rooms, and a health club.

Saddlebrook Resort-pTampa (FL) recently opened a three-and-a-half acre challenge course that includes ropes, logs, ladders, and wire cable to create an environment to develop teamwork skills.

The Crowne Plaza Hotel Washington, DC opened in June at 14th and K streets in the 1920s Beaux Arts-pstyle building that was home to the Hamilton Hotel through the early 1970s. Converting the building into a 318-room hotel with two club-level floors and 6,700 square feet of meeting space cost approximately $15 million.

COMING ATTRACTIONS John Q. Hammonds Hotels, Inc. recently announced the Marriott name will grace its new Tucson property, scheduled to open in mid-October. Marriott University Park will offer 255 rooms and 9,000 square feet of meeting space near the main entrance to the University of Arizona.

In April, the digging began for the new Doubletree Hotel Atlantic City, a major new $87 million facility being constructed adjacent to the city's new Convention and Exposition Center. The hotel, expected to open in fall 1997, will complement the center with 500 rooms, a 12,000-square-foot main ballroom, a 3,800-square-foot junior ballroom, more than 4,000 square feet of meeting room space, and 37 hospitality suites.

More choices in Orlando: Universal City Florida has plans on the books for two new luxury properties. The Portofino Bay Resort at Universal City Florida, a Loews Hotel breaks ground next year and will open in 1999 with 750 rooms, 65,000 square feet of meeting space, and a comprehensive spa. On its heels, The Royal Bali Hotel at Universal City Florida, a Loews Hotel is slated to open in the year 2000 adjacent to an 18-hole golf course and tennis club. The Royal Bali will have 1,200 rooms and about 175,000 square feet of meeting space.

INTERNATIONAL SCENE Westin Hotels has joined in a partnership with Demeure Hotels, which adds seven European properties to its portfolio. The Westin Demeure brand hotels now include The Grand in Amsterdam; Le Parc, Baltimore, Castille, and Marignan Elysees in Paris; 47 Park Street in London; and Hotel D'Angleterre in Geneva. Westin also has projects under construction in Bangkok, Thailand; Rio Mar, Puerto Rico; Surabaya, Indonesia; Philadelphia; Oklahoma City, and at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

The Grand Hyatt Hong Kong has recently refurbished its 22 two-room executive suites to create a more residential atmosphere.