March 03, 2004

British businessman Gerry Acher has been appointed chair of the mayoral commission determining the feasibility of a new international convention center in London. The commission reports to the London Development Agency, the mayor's agency for business and jobs.

Last week, Philadelphia's Pennsylvania Convention Center began offering free wireless Internet access in public areas, including Reading Terminal Market, the farmers market that serves as a lunch spot for attendees.

In Rockford, Ill., developers are pitching plans for a new convention center. Last Thursday, Landmark Development Inc. proposed building a 200,000-square-foot convention center attached to new hotels, shops and a possible indoor water park in northeast Rockford. On Monday, competing developers Venue Development Associates suggested constructing a regional convention center in nearby Loves Park, Ill. The latter proposal includes a new home for the Rockford IceHogs minor league hockey team. Critics complain that either project, if built, would hurt Rockford's tax-subsidized MetroCentre and cripple downtown revitalization efforts. "Rockford keeps thinking that the interstate is more exciting than rolling water," says Jimmy Vitale, who owns downtown Rockford's Cliffbreakers River Suites Hotel, Conference Center and Riverview Restaurant. "But the river flows through the downtown area, and it's a tremendous asset that's being overlooked." The deadline for further submissions from developers is today.