Portland's Oregon Convention Center was reduced to using its parking lot to accommodate the overflow booths of one of its fastest growing clients, Wood Tech. "It's great that its Portland meetings are so successful, but we don't want exhibitors having to use less than class-A convention space," says Michael Smith, vice president of sales, Portland Oregon Visitors Association.
To meet the growing demand, plans are under way to nearly double the size of the 500,000-square-foot facility. The $85 million project will add 80,000 to 85,000 square feet of exhibition space, a 35,000-square-foot ballroom, 30 breakout rooms, and 1,100 underground parking spaces. The project will break ground next April and is expected to be complete in 2002. "We're about six months away from an architectural or technical plan, but we have a tech-savvy building now and are committed to keeping up with the latest and greatest," says Matt Pizzuti, the center's sales andmanager. He believes there will be a probable upgrade of the fiber-optic backbone, plus the addition of another T1 line--although other connectivity options are on the table. "We're considering a wireless rather than fiber-optic connection to the Internet," he says.
Currently there are single and multiple mode plug-and-go connections to the Internet from any meeting room or exhibit hall. Room-to-room intranet communications are available. "We offer online ordering of services for any exhibitor," Pizzuti. "That's the kind of technological service we're committed to providing."
The expansion can't come too soon. Operating at more than 70 percent capacity, the nine-year-old Oregon Convention Center has relatively few open time periods to book new business and finds its current exhibition space too small for many of the annual conventions where attendance is steadily climbing.
Pizzuti says the physical expansion will be accompanied by the opening of new technological vistas. "Our technology was once brand new, but now it's been around for ten years," Pizzuti says. "It'll be about six months before we put our new plan together. And who knows what will be available then?" --Thomas G. Dolan