Even in these challenging times, a number of cities remain bullish on conventions, enough to keep building and expanding facilities to house them. Following is a roundup of recent openings, projects in progress and a few that plan to resume construction during more favorable economic conditions.
Alaska Dena'ina Civic & Convention Center
The 215,000-square-foot Dena'ina Civic & Convention Center, unveiled last October in Anchorage, is named after the Dena'ina people, the first inhabitants of the region whose original settlement dates back to the end of the last Ice Age, between 500 and 1000 AD. Today, fewer than 50 individuals remain who are able to speak the original Dena'ina language.
Combined with the Egan Center two blocks away, which offers 45,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space accessible via temperature-controlled walkways, the new $111 million structure can accommodate groups of up to 5,000. Notable features include a 25,000-square-foot ballroom with skylights, heated flooring and an outdoor terrace; a 48,000-square-foot exhibit hall, and a 65-foot-high sculpture suspended from the atrium that depicts local wildlife. Six meeting rooms with a total of 11,000 square feet of space also are available.
Mississippi Jackson Convention Complex
The $65 million Jackson Convention Complex debuted this past January. Spanning 330,000 square feet, the new facility can accommodate groups of up to 6,000. Event space includes a 60,000-square-foot exhibit hall with two full-service concession areas, hookups for high-tech lighting and two loading docks; a 25,000-square-foot ballroom; 10 meeting rooms; 33,000 square feet of lobby and registration space; an outdoor patio, and a 10,000-square-foot kitchen with its own loading dock.
The city itself is home to a growing number of attractions, including the Jackson Zoological Park (jacksonzoo.org), the Ballet Mississippi (balletms.com), and the colorful Fondren District (fondren.org), with its eclectic mix of antique and clothing shops, restaurants and live music venues.
New Mexico Santa Fe Convention Center
Last September, the 72,000-square-foot Santa Fe Convention Center opened for business. The venue features 11 meeting rooms, a 17,925-square-foot ballroom, 3,139 square feet of prefunction space within the lobby and 11,139 square feet of outdoor event space.
Designed to LEED Silver specifications, the convention center has a number of sustainable features. For example, all timber used on the exterior of the building was rescued from a forest fire in New Mexico's Sacramento Mountains; a roof garden provides natural insulation and water conservation, and light sensors are used throughout to conserve electricity.
In the heart of downtown, the center is within walking distance of the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum (okeeffemuseum.org), the New Mexico Museum of Art (nmartmuseum.org), the award-winning Los Mayas Restaurant (www.losmayas.com) and much more.
North CarolinaRaleigh Convention Center
Last September, the new Raleigh Convention Center welcomed its first attendees. The 500,000-square-foot facility offers a 32,617-square-foot ballroom divisible by three; 20 meeting rooms spanning a total of 32,000 square feet; and an exhibit hall that can accommodate up to 790 booths, a 12,000-person banquet or up to 15,000 theater-style. An 11,500-square-foot reception area and a 4,100-square-foot lobby featuring floor-to-ceiling windows provide space for mixers and casual gatherings. The center is in the process of seeking LEED certification.
The Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau (visitraleigh.com) offers a multitude of suggestions for day trips, museums, sports, restaurants and nightlife.
PennsylvaniaLancaster County Convention Center
At press time, the $174 million Lancaster County Convention Center and Marriott Lancaster at Penn Square were just weeks from a grand opening, following some construction delays. The integrated facility offers a total of 90,000 square feet of space, which includes a 45,000-square-foot exhibit hall and two 9,000-square-foot ballrooms.
The Marriott Lancaster at Penn Square, which features 300 guest rooms, and the convention center together offer wireless Internet throughout; two business centers; a variety of concession areas; a fine-dining restaurant that seats up to 100 people and includes a private section; a lounge area; an exercise room, and two spa treatment rooms.
Another feature of the complex is the Stevens & Smith Historic Site, a new interactive museum and restoration project honoring the work of slavery abolitionists from Lancaster and the surrounding area.
MexicoPuerto Vallarta International Convention Center
This past March, the Puerto Vallarta International Convention Center opened along Mexico's Pacific coast, surrounded by a 247,500-square-foot outdoor plaza with landscaped gardens. The 161,000-square-foot building features a 53,800-square-foot divisible ballroom that can accommodate groups of up to 5,000. For breakouts and smaller gatherings, 4,800 square feet can be divided into three spaces, each of which can host 25 people.
Translation booths, a business center and offices are available as well, as are multiple loading docks, wireless Internet, a 150-person cafeteria, a VIP lounge and a box office.