March 19, 2008

The Georgia World Congress Center, the 1,068-room Westin Peachtree Plaza and the 1,067-room Omni Hotel at the CNN Center all reported damage from a tornado and storm that hit Atlanta this past weekend. The GWCC suffered roof damage and two of its Hermes Towers were blown over. At the Westin Peachtree Plaza, more than 100 rooms are out of commission because of broken windows, and the glass elevator was damaged. About 155 guest rooms in the South Tower of the Omni Hotel experienced window damage, and those rooms will be closed for the next two weeks. Five small meetings at the hotel (totaling fewer than 500 people) were relocated to the nearby Westin Peachtree Plaza. All events scheduled at the Georgia World Congress Center, the Georgia Dome and Centennial Olympic Park have been canceled through Friday, March 21, officials said, resulting in a shutdown of the Atlanta Home Show and the 96th Thomas P. Hinman Dental Meeting. The Southeastern Conference's Men's Basketball Tournament taking place at the GWCC last weekend was relocated to various venues around town. About 38,000 visitors will travel to Atlanta starting Thursday for the Big South Qualifier volleyball tournament; officials already have relocated the games to various venues around the city. Crews at the GWCC currently are cleaning and assessing the damage and have yet to announce how much repairs will cost, the economic impact of lost business and when the center will reopen.

This past weekend -- just days after the resignation of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer -- Patrick Foye, chairman of the Empire State Development Corp., announced he will step down. Foye was appointed chairman in 2007 by Spitzer's administration and was responsible for handling several major New York City development projects, including the renovation and possible expansion of the Jacob K. Javits Center. His resignation letter said his leaving was directly related to recent events: "Given Governor Spitzer's resignation and my belief that you deserve to work with a team of your choosing, I have determined that it is timely for me to resign and return to the private sector." Foye will remain at ESDC for an undisclosed period of time until a replacement is found.

A new convention center hotel opens today in San Antonio. The 1,003-room Grand Hyatt San Antonio features 115,000 square feet of meeting space, a coffee shop and a restaurant. The 24-hour fitness center offers a Fitness Concierge; workout gear, such as clothes, shoes and swimming goggles, delivered to your room; and the Fitness GPS Forerunner Armband, which is preprogrammed with the hotel's coordinates, so those who exercise off-property can find their way back.

Cleveland's plans to build a joint convention center and "medical mart," a showroom for medical equipment and devices, cleared another hurdle last week when Cuyahoga County officials announced a tentative deal with Merchandise Mart Properties Inc., the company that has offered to invest $20 million in the complex if the city builds a new convention facility. An official agreement probably won't be reached before next week, according to the county commissioner's office. Still undecided is the location for the complex. The top two choices are behind Tower City, off Public Square, and the site of the existing convention center.

InterContinental Hotels Group unveiled the new Crowne Plaza prototype this week with the opening of the 198-room Crowne Plaza Milwaukee-Wauwatosa, which features 7,000 square feet of meeting space.æThe new design leverages the brand's "The Place to Meet" slogan by creating flexible formal and informal meeting spaces. The lobby and lounge area contain sofa seating with small tables, multiple power sources and wireless Internet access. Dedicated meeting rooms are now positioned apart from the busier areas of the hotel, allowing for fewer distractions; they feature ergonomic chairs, controllable lighting, backlit projection screens and wireless Internet access. Ten additional properties in the Crowne Plaza pipeline will incorporate the elements of the new prototype, including hotels in Baltimore; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; and Raleigh-Durham, N.C.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II visited Heathrow Airport's new Terminal 5 on Friday to celebrate the debut of British Airways' new home. The US$8.6 billion facility, built over the past six years, will open to passengers on March 27. Terminal 5 is capable of handling 30 million passengers a year. The queen launched Terminals 5A and its satellite building, 5B. Terminal 5C, another satellite building, will open in 2010.