February 13, 2008

The Sheraton and Four Points by Sheraton hotel brands now will be smoke-free throughout the U.S., Caribbean and Canada. To prepare for the new policy, approximately 8,000 rooms across the two flags will beextensively cleaned. Both brands will be completely smoke-free by year's end. Sheraton and Four Points by Sheraton join sister brand Westin, which implemented a smoke-free policy in January 2006.

The Convention Industry Council's Accepted Practices Exchange has launched version 3.0 of the APEX Toolbox. The upgrade fully integrates the Toolbox with Microsoft's Office 2007 and Vista platforms and incorporates all APEX data standards. Registered users of the software's earlier versions can upgrade to 3.0 for free. For instructions and information, visit conventionindustry.org/APEX/Toolbox/Toolbox_v3.htm.

Members of Nashville's Metro Council voted last week to fund predevelopment work on a new $635 million convention center, hotel and parking garage. Preliminary work includes drawing up architectural plans and determining other details for the center. The project will be funded using the four new occupancy taxes that were approved last year. The push to build a new facility was supported by a 2006 report that said the city had lost out on 250 events over the last five years because of the limited size and age of the 21-year-old Nashville Convention Center, which has 118,000 square feet of exhibit space, 24 meeting rooms and one ballroom. The proposed facility will have 375,000 square feet of exhibit space, 75 to 100 meeting rooms, two ballrooms, a 3,000-seat theater and two 1,000-space parking garages. A final vote to approve construction and to issue bonds to pay for the center will take place later this year or in early 2009. The city hopes to open the new center by 2012.

The Chartres Lodging Group, previously called Oxford Lodging Advisory & Investment, has completed the purchase of the five remaining Adam's Mark hotels in Dallas, Denver, Indianapolis, St. Louis and Buffalo, N.Y. Both the Dallas and Denver hotels will become Sheratons this spring; the 1,840-room Dallas property is undergoing an $87 million renovation, and $70 million is being spent on the 1,225-room Denver hotel. The 910-room Adam's Mark St. Louis will become the Hyatt Regency St. Louis Riverfront following a $63 million renovation. For now, the Indianapolis and Buffalo properties will remain under the Adam's Mark flag. The 406-room Adam's Mark Indianapolis will be rebranded following an $18 million renovation, but the new flag has not yet been chosen. A renovation also is planned for the 486-room Adam's Mark Buffalo-Niagara, but no name change is in the offing, and the amount of money being spent there was not released.

The Dallas City Council votes today to buy land for a much needed convention center hotel. A yes vote would authorize obtaining $500,000 from the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau to spend on a contract to purchase an 8.34-acre tract. The actual land, to be purchased by Sept. 30, would cost almost $40 million, according to the Dallas Morning News. CVB president and CEO Phillip Jones has said the American Heart Association tentatively has agreed to bring its convention to the city in 2013 and 2017 if a headquarters hotel is built.

Chicago developer Jerry Fogelson wants to build a 3,000-room hotel connected to McCormick Place. Fogelson owns the last major piece of undeveloped property along Lake Shore Drive north of the convention center and has held preliminary discussions with the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority and the city about a multibillion-dollar development that would include residential, office and retail space along with the hotel. A monorail also is in his plans, to connect to the city's commuter rail system and to downtown. The so-called Gateway development would not only add needed rooms near McCormick Place but would bring in restaurants and other amenities for attendees, said Fogelson. Construction would not begin before next year and could take a decade to complete, if approved.

Ground has been broken on the $333-million Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino and Hotel in downtown Buffalo, N.Y. Features of the development include a three-story, 90,000-square-foot casino; a 206-suite hotel; a three-acre public park; four restaurants; a spa, and a 2,500-vehicle garage. The casino and hotel are scheduled to open in spring and summer 2010, respectively.

The Monte Carlo hotel-casino in Las Vegas, closed since a fire damaged the facade and some rooms on the upper floors on Jan. 25, will reopen this Friday. At least 1,200 of the 3,000 guest rooms will be available, with an additional 1,300 rooms reopening by Feb. 22. The hotel will perform more extensive renovations of the remaining 500 rooms, which were most affected by the fire; they will be closed until further notice. Most facilities will be up and running as of Friday, including all meeting facilities, the casino, the wedding chapel, the spa and Lance Burton's magic show. The only dining outlets not slated to open by Friday are the buffet and the Monte Carlo Brew Pub, both of which will open by Feb. 22.