The Crown Casino and Crown Towers Hotel complex is a monster. It stretches more than 1,600 feet along the Yarra River in Melbourne, Australia, across the way from the 300,000-square-foot Melbourne Exhibition Centre, the largest enclosed space in the Southern Hemisphere. The hotel has 26 meeting rooms, including the Palladium, at 20,100 square feet billed as the largest pillarless ballroom in the Southern Hemisphere. (There's that claim again--are the Brazilians reading this?) The 500-room hotel sits in the same footprint as the Crown Casino.

The hotel's 26 meeting rooms are served by three 128 Kbps ISDN lines, says Dave Marmo, technical manager for Staging Connections, the facility's audiovisual contractor. It also has fiber-optic lines for video broadcasting.

Despite its size, the Crown Casino is not visually overwhelming. It looks like a collection of buildings: a hotel, a shopping mall, gambling halls, a parking garage, and an entertainment center, with nightclubs, movie theaters, and a string of restaurants.

* The Hyatt Regency Coolum has recently put in fiber optics and ISDN lines, improving its communications infrastructures. Companies can create a LAN within the hotel, for example, with network facilities in any conference room and a maximum of 700 computers in one room. In the past year, international conferences at Hyatt Regency Coolum have included: Digital, Microsoft, Mincom, VeriFone, Bay Networks, MIS Systems, and Comtech. The resort has 324 suites, villas, and residences, plus banquet and meeting facilities for up to 1,000 guests. It is 80 minutes from Brisbane's International Airport and a seven-minute transfer from the Sunshine Coast Airport.

* At the 158-room Park Hyatt Sydney, guests can now access the Internet from their own rooms via a television and an infrared (cordless) keyboard. Each room also now has two separate phone lines. Guests also are given personal e-mail ad dresses, maintained in the hotel's guest history for use on successive visits. The hotel offers three meeting rooms: an 850-square-foot library seating up to 50 theater-style, a smaller meeting space for up to 30 people, and a boardroom seating a maximum of 16. The library and boardroom are connected and feature built-in speaker systems and projection equipment.

Silicon Valley2 * The 350-room Westin San Jose will open across the street from the San Jose McEnery Convention Center in January 2001. Plans call for more than 18,000 square feet of meeting space, a full-service fitness center, business center, and parking garage. The Westin San Jose will be the only hotel with direct access to the 150-acre Guadalupe River Park and Gardens.

* After a $7.5 million renovation, the Holiday Inn San Jose North will become an upscale Crowne Plaza San Jose hotel. The renovation, expected to be completed in April, will redo the lobby, banquet rooms, restaurant, and meeting spaces, and will upgrade the hotel's 305 rooms with two-line phones and mobile executive workstations, among other amenities. The hotel offers 6,377 square feet of meeting space.

* Silicon Valley's largest hotel, the 754-room Santa Clara Marriott, is in the midst of a major rooms renovation. Phase I, expected to be finished in February, is a comprehensive remodeling of the 400 guest rooms in the North Tower--furnishings, carpets, wall coverings, window treatments, and bath vanities. Rooms with King beds will feature Marriott's Series 2000 business traveler amenities: ergonomic chair, two-piece desk, and lamp with a power outlet and data port. The balance of the Marriott's rooms will be remodeled between November 1999 and February 2000.

* The Fremont Marriott will open this summer in Fremont, Calif., 11 miles north of San Jose. The 358-room hotel will have a fully-equipped health club, two restaurants, concierge floor, and 18,000 square feet of meeting space.

Since its take over by Destination Hotels & Resorts in 1995, Denver's Inverness Hotel & Golf Club--the former Scanticon conference center--has upgraded and remodeled, and is hosting high-tech training meetings in record numbers. One-upping many of its conference center compatriots, it recently expanded its Complete Meeting Package to include the use of LCD projectors. "So many of our clients use LCD equipment that we now include it in our basic pricing structure," says Terry Murphy, general manager. Planners can realize savings of up to $500 per day, he notes.

Inverness has also added a third T1 line to its facility, enhancing Internet access, and has installed dataports in all rooms. In addition, some $400,000 has been spent on the health club, indoor pool, and sports bar. The property has 302 guest rooms, 60,000 square feet of meeting space, a full production studio, and in-house multimedia department.

This year the San Jose McEnery Convention Center is celebrating both its ten-year anniversary and the installation of a high-speed network that has brought the building up to the standards of its high-tech neighborhood.

Over the course of 1998, San Jose-based Streamline Communications blanketed the center with a distributed network of fiber-optic and category 5 copper cabling, even extending to concourse and pavilion areas. In addition, the wide area interface--the "pipe" connecting the facility with the Internet--is a DS3 (T3) line, which transmits data at an incredible 45 Mbps, equivalent to 30 T1 lines.

Streamline president Mike Sodegren emphasizes that the wiring system was built with scalability and flexibility in mind. One example: "We've designed the network to easily support visible Network Operations Centers on the show floor," he says. These centers can be an important feature for networking technology shows, and with the flexible wiring, show sponsors don't have to spend a week setting it up.

* 425,000 square feet of total function space

* 143,000-square-foot column-free exhibit hall

--30-foot-high finished ceilings

--12 loading bays

--floor boxes with cable, electrical, and phone, at 30-foot intervals

* 22,000-square-foot ballroom

* 30 meeting rooms

* kitchen facilities accommodate banquets for 5,000

* parking for 1,200 cars on-site.