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Convention centers and hotels are building for the future


San Diego Convention Center

The SDCC expansion includes 225,000 square feet of adjacent exhibit hall space, almost 100,000 square feet of meeting room space.

From San Diego to Orlando, meeting facilities and hotels are renovating, upgrading and expanding with an eye on securing the conferences and attendees of the future.

With most tradeshow and meeting professionals cautiously optimistic about 2011, recently the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) and IMEX Group have all revealed positive research findings about the industry.

Hotels and convention centers must be listening as they plan to break ground on new locations and increase existing exhibit space in others.

The San Diego Convention Center (SDCC), the Washington Marriot Marquis Hotel, the Peabody Orlando hotel, the Hyatt Regency Atlanta, the Miami Airport Convention Center (MACC) and the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center (BNCC) have all completed or began construction and renovation projects within the last four months.

San Diego Convention Center Corporation (SDCCC) recently approved a final design for the proposed phase three expansion of the SDCC. The expansion includes 225,000 square feet of adjacent exhibit hall space, almost 100,000 square feet of meeting room space and a new 80,000 square foot ballroom.

When completed, the bayside convention center will have more than 750,000 square feet of adjoining exhibit hall space making it larger than any other on the West Coast, moving it ahead of competitors in Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Francisco and Seattle. In addition, the ballroom will be the largest in a convention facility on the West Coast.

“The convention center continues to be one of San Diego’s strongest assets, driving jobs, tax revenues and economic benefits, all of which will significantly increase when the building expands,” said Jerry Sanders, San Diego mayor.

Staying ahead of the competition with this expansion was also the goal of the SDCCC.

“It will boost our economy by creating new jobs, build on tourism and ensure San Diego remains at the top of the convention industry by delivering more exhibit and meeting space,” said Bob Nelson, chair of the SDCCC board of directors. “This is a huge win for communities throughout our region.”

On the other side of the nation, the Washington Convention and Sports Authority (WCSA) and Marriot Hotel chain are also making plans for the future.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held on November 10 for a 1,175-room, 46-suite Washington Marriott Marquis hotel. With more than 100,000 square feet of meeting and assembly space, a grand lobby and five separate retail and restaurant outlets, the hotel is also set to be the next great social hub in the city.

“The groundbreaking of the Washington Marriott Marquis is a big win for DC’s meetings and tourism industry,” said Elliott Ferguson, president and CEO, Destination DC. “With a major new hotel attached to the convention center, meeting and event planners will find it easier to build large blocks of hotel rooms. The hotel also brings a significant amount of new meeting space, which we can marry with the space at the convention center to maximize its use. Because the hotel will be located in the heart of downtown DC, it will also be a powerful new asset for visitors to our city.”

The $520 million, four-star hotel will compliment the convention center and include a 30,000 square foot grand ballroom, two 10,800 square foot junior ballrooms and more than 53,000 square feet of meeting rooms.

“This groundbreaking is a huge step for this landmark project,” said Gregory A. O’Dell, president and CEO of the WCSA. “It will also allow us to maximize the economic impact of the convention center.”


The Orlando Peabody now has 300,000 square feet of flexible function space.

Further south, the Orlando Peabody hotel recently opened the doors to a $450 million expansion to its original building, which was built in 1986.

After a decade of planning and two and a half years of construction, the expansion features a 32-story tower and 1,641 ultra-luxurious guestrooms. The expanded meeting space consists of 300,000 square feet of flexible function space. The hotel is connected to the Orange County Convention Center by two covered walkways.

“Nearly 24 years ago, we opened The Peabody Orlando with the intention of changing the landscape of Orlando’s meetings and conventions sector, and now with our new expansion, we hope to further establish the area as a top destination for meeting planners,” said Marty Belz, president and CEO of Peabody Hotel Group. “As we open the doors to our newly expanded hotel, I’m thrilled by the response and positive feedback from our valued meeting planners, vendors, industry leaders and the surrounding community.”

The hotel’s newly expanded meeting space features an impressive, pillar-free 54,652 square foot grand ballroom and a 75,000 square foot rotunda designed for networking and registration.

“For the last two years, we have watched the construction site turn into a functioning hotel,” said Alan Villaverde, managing director of The Peabody Orlando. “I expect that the excitement will not fade now that we’re opened, instead it will continue to grow as we play a leading role in attracting new conventions and large groups to International Drive.”


The Hyatt Regency Atlanta has started a $60 million update to the property.

The Hyatt Regency hotel brand is also investing in the meeting and events industry with one renovation project that began in September and one that ended in August.

The Hyatt Regency Atlanta has started a $60 million update to the property. The goal of the transformation is to ensure the hotel’s continued position as a leader in the local, regional and national meetings and convention market.

“Hyatt Regency Atlanta has played an integral role in Atlanta for more than 40 years, serving as a central gathering place for local Atlantans and a meeting venue for travelers across the globe,” said Joe Hindsley, hotel general manager. “This major transformation speaks to our commitment to ensure the hotel continues to be an innovative destination for years to come.”

The MACC recently broke ground on a modernization and facility conversion project. The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2011.

“This property has a proud history as the venue of first choice for a great many major events of all types and we intend to re-claim that market position,” said Mark Calibo, director of sales and marketing.

Once completed, the MACC will be Miami’s second largest convention and exhibition facility with a total of 172,000 square feet of meeting space with the ability to host over four hundred tradeshow booths.

Finally, BNCC completed a $7 million renovation project in September.

“The renovations to the BNCC are an important piece in the BNCVB’s broader effort to rebrand Buffalo as an attractive tourism and convention destination,” said Praetzel. “We will leverage this improved facility, recent upgrades to our region’s hotel stock and our community’s world-class attractions to bring visitors to Buffalo.”

The upgrades to the 110,000 square foot center included a new main entrance and state-of-the-art electronic marquee, a facelift for the main exhibit hall, updated signage and renovated show offices to name a few.




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