by Tom Isler | September 01, 2006

Not many cities are able to carve out valuable waterfront property for their convention centers. But the few facilities that sit along the water offer groups a special aesthetic experience and planners the opportunity to take advantage of the adjacent lakes, rivers or bays to enhance their meetings.

While the centers’ locations can’t be held entirely responsible for landing business (even the Bassmaster Classic fishing tournament and Classic ESPN Outdoors Expo booked the landlocked Charlotte Convention Center in 2004), facility managers say the waterfront advantage can help tip the scales in favor of their cities.

Here’s a look at several waterfront centers and how they encourage groups to make the most of their locations.

Arthur R. Outlaw Convention Center, Mobile, Ala.Arthur R. Outlaw Convention Center,
Mobile, Ala.

The water: Mobile River

The center: The Arthur R. Outlaw Convention Center, which has a 100,000-square-foot exhibit hall and a 15,000-square-foot ballroom.

Taking advantage: The center has more than 25,000 square feet of outdoor terraces that face the river. “Events have used the space in many different ways,” says Renee Browning, director of sales. “For example, the Gulf Coast Boat Show encourages attendees to watch their in-water displays from the outdoor terraces. Another option: The National Barbecue Association set up kitchens and cooked on the outdoor terraces.”

Groups are encouraged to make use of the Grampa Woo, a 115-foot yacht, which docks at the center each year from November to May, between cruising the Mobile River and the Gulf of Mexico.

Contact: (251) 208-2100;

Broward County Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale

Broward County Convention Center,
Fort Lauderdale

The water: Intracoastal Waterway, feeding directly into the Atlantic Ocean

The center: The Broward County Convention Center, with 200,000 square feet of exhibit space and 39 meeting rooms. Among the creative design elements inside the facility is custom carpeting featuring imagery of indigenous fish, scuba divers and other nautical elements.

Taking advantage: “The views from the water are the very best way to experience Fort Lauderdale,” says Francine Mason, vice president of communications for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Those staying at several nearby hotels, including the 457-room Sheraton Yankee Trader and the 367-room Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, can travel to the convention center by way of a water taxi ( In front of the center is a 1.3-acre plaza with a fountain and sailfish sculpture that can be set up for an outdoor reception.

For a bird’s-eye view of the city’s navigable inland waterways, groups can book The Pier Top, an event space on the 17th floor of the nearby Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six Resort (

Contact: (954) 765-5900;