November 19, 2003

San Francisco-based Medialive International, producer of the Comdex trade show and formerly known as Key3Media, announced an initiative to create an impartial body dedicated to monitoring technology-event attendance. The IT Event Measurement and Audit Council holds its first meeting this week at Comdex in Las Vegas. This organization brings together trade show industry groups, show producers and major tech exhibitors like Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard. One of the member companies, show producer IDG -- which manages, among others, the East and West Coast Macworld shows -- will audit attendance at its events using a third-party company.

Southwest Airlines ended its meetings program last week, citing lack of use among customers. The carrier said all meeting agreements established before Nov. 12, 2003, will be honored through Dec. 31, 2004. Under the terms of its meetings program, Southwest offered 10 percent discounts to parties of 25 or more flying from different cities to the same destination. The airline did not make changes to its group programs, which are for people departing from the same airport and flying to the same destination.

The Palm Springs (Calif.) Convention Center last week broke ground on a $27.5 million expansion that will double the size of the facility. When completed in March 2005, the center will have a total of 265,000 square feet. Officials said the project is part of an effort to attract larger groups and lure back those who have outgrown the 18-year-old center.

A $2 million meeting-room renovation has been completed at the 654-room Phoenician in Scottsdale, Ariz. The property's 65,000 square feet of meeting space has been redecorated with new carpeting and wall upholstery. Another $1 million has been spent to upgrade the hotel's golf course. By the end of the year, a $2 million upgrade of the resort's suites also will be completed.

The 251-room Mandarin Oriental New York opened Saturday in the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle. The posh hotel offers 7,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 6,000-square-foot ballroom. The centerpiece of the property is a 14,500-square-foot spa and fitness center. A separate dining floor, not affiliated with the hotel, will open in a few months, featuring restaurants by famed chefs Thomas Keller, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Masa Takayama, who reportedly has vowed to run the most expensive restaurant in New York City.

The city of Boston has awarded $40 million in loans to three hotel projects. The 795-room Westin Convention Center Hotel and the 150-room Mandarin Oriental Hotel each will receive $15 million, and the 150-room Regent Boston Battery Wharf Hotel will receive $10 million. In other Boston news, Nicholas A. Langella has been hired as general manager of the under-construction Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, which is scheduled to open next year. Langella comes from the Waterford Group, which is building a convention center in Hartford, Conn., and he was formerly the building services and operations manager at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City.

Hunzinger Construction Company has announced plans to build a $30 million, 253-room Sheraton hotel with 6,600 square feet of meeting space near Milwaukee's convention center. Construction could begin as soon as this spring. However, Doug Nielsen, president of the Greater Milwaukee Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the project is very much up in the air because it has not yet been approved.

In Houston, local papers have reported the 601-room Adam's Mark Hotel is becoming a Marriott. An $18 million renovation was to begin Monday to turn the hotel into the Houston Marriott Westchase. Phase one tackles the rooms, which are expected to be refurbished in time for the Super Bowl on Feb. 1. Phase two begins immediately following the game. The hotel offers 40,000 square feet of meeting space. Calls to Marriott were not returned.