February 09, 2005

In a stunning blocking maneuver, Cablevision, owner of New York City's Madison Square Garden, last Friday bid $600 million for the same piece of land the New York Jets plan to buy for the New York Sports and Convention Center. The Jets, who are now in negotiations with the land's owner, the Metropolitan Transit Authority, have bid $100 million for the same property. Cablevision's plan to develop a mixed-use district of office buildings, housing and a hotel, envisions the expansion of the Javits Center, but would rule out the NYSCC and dim hopes New York City could host the 2012 Olympic games. Supporters of the Jets stadium plan were shocked. "This is a desperate, last-minute attempt to derail a project that will create thousands of jobs, more than $1 billion in tax revenue and allow New York to realize its Olympic dreams by building a world-class sports and convention center," said Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff. "A Friday afternoon press release doesn't replace years of planning, design, negotiation and public review from which this project has benefited."

Federal funding for Amtrak would be almost totally eliminated under President Bush's proposed budget for the Transportation Department, with a cut of approximately $1.2 billion. Critics of the budget plan say Amtrak will collapse without government subsidies. "Sometimes, a budget proposal is penny-wise and pound-foolish," said Democratic Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York. "This plan to gut Amtrak doesn't even meet that low standard, and that's why together we're going to do everything we can to stop it." In the same federal budget proposal, the Airport Improvement Program is cut by $500 million, while the budget for highway construction is increased by $28 billion.

The City of Newark and the New Jersey Devils hockey team signed an agreement Feb. 2 to build an 18,000-seat arena and entertainment complex in Newark. The facility will be the team's home for the next 30 years. "[The arena will] become the engine that fuels our economic growth, bringing tourism and luster to our downtown; and jobs, opportunities and development to every neighborhood in the city," said Newark Mayor Sharpe James. Construction will begin in September and the team will begin play at the new facility in October 2007. Also in the plan is a 300-room hotel.

According to results of a study released yesterday, the U.S. business travel industry appears to be officially in recovery and poised for healthy growth. The 2004 Business and Convention Travelers Report, conducted by the Travel Industry Association of America and sponsored by the National Business Travel Association and the Institute of Business Travel Management, is based on responses of 2,043 U.S. business travelers. Among key findings: 
* In 2003, 38.3 million Americans took 210.5 million domestic business trips. They spent $153.2 billion, or nearly one-third of the domestic travel market. 
* In the first six months of 2004, the number of domestic business trips increased 3.8 percent over the same period in 2003. 
* Forty-five percent of those who work for companies with managed travel programs have used teleconferencing, videoconferencing and/or webcasting in the past 12 months instead of taking a business trip.
An executive summary of the report is available at http://www.nbta.org/About/News/Releases2005/rls020805.htm.

The Sanibel Harbour Resort & Spa in Fort Myers, Fla., reopened Feb. 1 following the completion of hurricane repairs. The six-month refurbishment included makeovers of all meeting space and 507 guest rooms. New is the Grande Bay at Sanibel Harbour, a 107-room hotel-within-a-hotel with upscale facilities and services.

Landry's Restaurants Inc. has purchased Las Vegas' 1,907-room Golden Nugget, which has 40,000 square feet of meeting space. The $295 million deal involves Landry's taking over the hotel-casino's $155 million debt. The property will keep its name.

The 1,400-room Foxwoods Casino Resort in Mashantucket, Conn., announced on Feb. 1 that it will build a $700 million expansion, close on the heels of a new casino and a Hard Rock Cafe unveiled last October. The new expansion will feature an 825-room hotel, another casino, a 5,000-seat theater, several nightclubs and restaurants and a 21,000-square-foot spa. Approximately 145,000 square feet of extra meeting space, including a 50,000-square-foot ballroom, will give the property more than 200,000 square feet of meeting space. Work will begin this summer and finish in summer 2008. Part of the previous project, two golf courses, will open in May.

Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts will open its first property in Europe. To open in late 2009, the 195-room hotel will occupy 18 floors of the 70-story London Bridge Tower (which, when completed, will be Europe's tallest building). The Shangri-La Hotel at London Bridge Tower will have meeting space for up to 400, a business center with several board rooms and a CHI spa, Shangri-La's signature spa brand.