May 17, 2006
Chicago's Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, two trade show contractors and the Riggers Union Local 136 have agreed to a new five-year contact, which the MPEA says will increase flexibility and help reduce costs for exhibitors at McCormick Place. Local 136 represents about 300 workers who transport equipment from loading docks into the convention center and help exhibitors set up and dismantle large displays. Among the key changes included in the new contract, which takes effect June 1: flexible start times, which might help exhibitors avoid paying some overtime charges; the reduction of the standard crew size from three people to two; the right of exhibitors to request specific workers by name; and increased wages and benefits for workers, to be paid over the term of the contract.

Construction on the 600-room Sofitel London Heathrow hotel began last week. The airport property, set to open in 2008, will have 30 conference rooms and a large meeting room that will accommodate 1,500.

Officials in Rosemont, Ill., unveiled plans last week for Rosemont Walk, a $500 million mixed-use development adjacent to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center. The project will include more than 900 new hotel rooms and 600,000 square feet of office, retail and entertainment space. In the works: the 525-room Le Méridien Chicago O'Hare with 20,000 square feet of meeting space; Grizzly Falls Resort, a 400,000-square-foot water park with a 400-room hotel; a 22-screen movie theater, and a 72,000-square-foot office space and warehouse for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The development, about one mile from Chicago O'Hare International Airport, will open in phases over the next two years.

The Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles will receive a $22 million renovation, beginning in July and finishing up by the end of the year. All 726 guest rooms will be upgraded, and a new espresso bar, a street-level restaurant and a VIP lounge with its own check-in and concierge services will be added. The hotel, which became a Hyatt property last October, has more than 100,000 square feet of meeting and event space, including a 25,000-square-foot ballroom.

Leslie Doggett, president and CEO of the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association, resigned effective May 10 citing health and family reasons. Ronnie Burt, vice president of convention sales and services, will serve as interim president until a replacement for Doggett has been found. "It has been a wonderful and rewarding professional experience serving as BACVA's president and CEO," said Doggett, who ran the CVA for three years.