April 28, 2004

Melbourne, Australia, will open a new 600,000-square-foot convention center by 2008. The new facility, funded by both public and private money, will be built adjacent to the Melbourne Exhibition Centre on the city's River Yarra. The bidding process will start at the end of the year. The existing 1990 convention center is on the other side of the river from the exhibition facility and linked by bridge. City officials say Melbourne needs more capacity to offset competition from Asian cities such as Bangkok and Singapore; an expansion of the exhibition center also is planned, but no details have been announced.

Construction began last Friday on a $32.3 million expansion of the Palm Springs Convention Center. Approximately 111,000 square feet is being added, bringing the facility's total space to 261,000 square feet. The expansion, which is expected to be completed in fall 2005, also will include two new outdoor function areas, a loading dock and high-speed Internet access throughout the venue.

A report released by Dallas city auditor Thomas M. Taylor, CPA, found a number of areas where the Dallas Convention Center can improve its accounting practices. Looking at 41 randomly selected events held between Oct. 1, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2003, Taylor pinpointed six instances where the final invoice was issued more than 30 days after the conclusion of the event; four of those invoices were not issued until more than 50 days after the event. Taylor compared this practice with how centers in Houston and San Antonio conduct their accounting follow-ups, finding both send out invoices about five days after the event. "The invoicing findings were disturbing for me," said Daniel Huerta, interim director of convention event services for the city's major facilities, including the convention center. "But we had already addressed it in performance reviews, setting a goal for our director of event services to get invoices out within five days."

Pennsylvania governor Edward G. Rendell last week granted $6 million to the city of Williamsport to begin building a 24,000-square-foot conference center, as part of the central Pennsylvania city's revitalization. The center, with tentative plans to break ground in mid-2005 and open the following year, will be able to host groups of up to 1,200. The remainder of the money required for the center, a parking facility and pedestrian access to the Susquehanna River, as well as a proposed arena, will come from federal, county and private investment. William E. Nichols Jr., chairman of the board of the Lycoming County Visitors Bureau, said, "It's been identified that we should be hosting 50 conferences a year. There's a huge market we're missing because we don't have a facility such as this."