BIGGER AND SMARTER IN SAN DIEGO-GO-GO A tech industry favorite races toward the expansion finish line. Every tech event and meeting manager knows the way to San Diego. Just since the first of the year, the San Diego Convention Center has played host to the likes of the Gartner Group (Itxpo, other events), BellSouth (WAVE 2000), the Oracle Applications User Group, the Informix user conference, i2's Planet 2000 ... the list goes on and on.

They come for the weather, but they also come for the venue, and the SDCC is racing to keep up with the demands of tech-industry event organizers.

In May, the SDCC completed the enclosure of the 90,000-square-foot Sails Pavilion a month ahead of schedule and on budget ($10 million). With the enclosure came a new show floor capable of 350 pounds per square foot loading capacity; multifunctional utility boxes (with electric, gas, air, fiber-optic telecommunication connections, water, and drains) on 30-foot centers; a new heating and cooling system; and a slick new overhead lighting system.

The overall expansion project, due to be completed in September 2001, will bring the total contiguous exhibit space to 525,701 square feet (this is in addition to the Sails Pavilion), and add two 40,000-square-foot ballrooms as well as 284,494 square feet of prefunction, lobby, and registration areas. There will be 72 meeting rooms, including the two ballrooms. Total gross interior square footage will be approximately doubled, to 1.7 million square feet.

Those who remember complaints about low ceiling heights from the 1996 Republican National Convention will be pleased to learn that the new Halls F, G, and H have 37 feet, 4 inches of headroom, which is 10 feet more than in the older halls.

Another Smart City On the connectivity front, in August the SDCC signed with Las Vegas-based Smart City Networks for telecommunications services. TM readers will recall that SCN is the telecom contractor at the Las Vegas Convention Center (Nov/Dec 1999, page 30) as well as for the five largest computer/electronic trade shows, including Comdex. Basically, SCN has pledged to make "significant capital improvements" to the SDCC's voice, data, and Internet infrastructure. This will mean doing whatever is necessary to eliminate bottlenecks from the show floor to any and all outside communications services, from phone lines to Internet backbone connections to video satellite uplinks/ downlinks. Past SCN strategies have included mixing wired and wireless networks. The bottom line for event and meeting managers is that while SCN gets exclusivity inside the building - nobody likes to hear the "E" word - there will be no finger-pointing by contractors. One call - theoretically - will do it all. SCN has similar arrangements not only in Las Vegas but in Anaheim, Calif.; Charlotte, N.C.; Dallas; Houston; and Los Angeles.

Familiar Face In line with its emphasis on bigger and better, the SDCC created a new position in June, that of director of event services. Readers who have worked with Washington, D.C.-based Brede Expo-sition Services will be pleased to hear that a former account executive, Beth Currie, has taken on the task, which will involve running the event management department and relationships with food and beverage concessionaires, Mail Boxes Etc., and MSI, the center's audiovisual provider.

San Diego has been paying attention to clicks as well as bricks; earlier this year PRWeek magazine (a trade publication for public relations professionals) named the center's Web site (www.sdcc.org) the best new media site of the year. Some of the better features on this well-organized site include a selection of floor plans that is searchable by desired dimensions as well as room name, a searchable calendar of upcoming events at the venue, to-the-point summaries of available services (food and beverage, security, telecommunications, audiovisual, housekeeping, and guest services), and such commonly overlooked niceties as a page of driving directions supplemented by a city map. There is what looks like a complete telephone directory of SDCC offices, but, strangely for a tech-oriented operation, no e-mail addresses.

l Anaheim/Orange County Visitors & Convention Bureau www.anaheimoc.org

l Santa Monica CVB www.santamonica.com

l Pasadena CVB www.PasadenaCal.com

l Long Beach Area CVB www.golongbeach.org

l Newport Beach CVB www.newportbeach-cvb.com

l Los Angeles CVB www.lacvb.com

l Palm Springs Desert Resorts CVB www.desert-resorts.com

l San Diego CVB www.sandiego.org

Four world-class resorts, a golf club, and the city of Indian Wells, Calif., have joined forces to offer a campus-style environment for meetings. The group includes Hyatt Grand Champions Resort, Indian Wells Resort Hotel, Miramonte Resort, Renaissance Esmeralda Resort, and the Golf Resort at Indian Wells, which together offer 1,275 rooms and suites, 100,000 square feet of meeting space, three spas, four fitness centers, 36 holes of golf, 38 tennis courts, and 10 restaurants. The resorts are a five-minute walk from each other. Visit www.indianwells.org for more details.