New Convention Center Headquarters Hotels

A fresh crop of convention center hotels promises to keep attendees close to the action

The Fort Lauderdale Convention Collection
A new program unites six hotels to create deals for planners

Broward County Convention Center

January marked the debut of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention Collection concept, which pairs the Broward County Convention Center (above) with six meeting hotels, all within a mile of the 200,000-square-foot center. In tandem, the properties can accommodate groups of up to 2,700.

The program includes various perks for planners and attendees, including complimentary meeting and event space at the convention center, a complimentary one-hour welcome reception and board of directors reception, gifts from local suppliers, and a 10 percent discount on services including food and beverage, electric, audiovisual, Internet and security staffing.

Program participants include the 650-room Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, 589-room Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, 486-room Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel, 384-room Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six, 361-room Fort Lauderdale Embassy Suites and 236-room Renaissance Fort Lauderdale Cruise Port Hotel. 

Transferring attendees from hotels to distant convention centers can be filled with logistical problems and added costs. Delegates can find themselves waiting for shuttles to arrive or stranded onboard until the bus is near capacity before departure.

Such scenarios are outright deal breakers for Shawn Johnston, who organizes six meetings a year for the Bethesda, Md.-based American Fisheries Society. "We have educational sessions and events at different times during the day, but not everyone wants to go to every session," he notes. "For them to travel even 10 or 15 minutes each way to grab something from their hotel room or take some time to rest is really inconvenient. Even if our attendees have to walk more than two blocks, we get complaints.

"We always book hotels as close to the convention center as possible," Johnston continues. "We spoil them, but after all, they are our backbone."

Luckily for attendees and planners alike, a host of new convention center headquarters hotels are opening in key meetings destinations around the country. Some of their paired centers recently have undergone upgrades of their own in anticipation of fresh group business.

Columbus, Ohio > Hilton Columbus will have more to celebrate than its bicentennial in 2012: A new, as yet unnamed Hilton headquarters hotel in the Ohio city's downtown district will debut next fall. The 532-room property comes with a $140 million price tag and will be LEED-certified. Features include approximately 22,800 square feet of meeting space, a 160-seat restaurant and a 100-seat lounge. A glass sky bridge will connect the hotel with the 1.7 million-square-foot Greater Columbus Convention Center.

For its part, the center opened a new expansion, Battelle Grand, last year following a 16-month, $40 million renovation. This 50,000-square-foot ballroom features floor-to-ceiling windows, LED lights that can be configured for 65,000 color combinations, and a 24,000-square-foot mezzanine level.

Next door, the 633-room Hyatt Regency Columbus completed a $12 million renovation of its guest rooms in May. Upgrades include 42-inch TVs, granite bathroom countertops and new lighting fixtures. The property also includes 70,000 square feet of function space and the Big Bar lounge, featuring a 53-foot-long black granite bar and serving specialty cocktails and casual fare.

DallasOmni Dallas> Omni Dallas Hotel Opening Nov. 11, two months ahead of schedule, in Dallas' historic district is the 1,001-room Omni Dallas Hotel. The 23-story property will have access to the Dallas Convention Center via covered sky bridge.

The hotel itself has about 110,000 square feet of function space, with 37 meeting rooms and two ballrooms. Delegates can dine at Bob's Steak & Chop House; grab a beer at the Owner's Box, a full-service sports bar with multiple HDTVs perched on the walls; relax in the Mokara Salon & Spa, or lounge in the rooftop pool. Thanks to planned energy conservation initiatives, the Omni Dallas is expected to achieve LEED Silver status.

The Dallas Convention Center, with more than 1 million square feet of exhibit space and 88 meeting rooms, received its own LEED Silver designation in April 2010.

Two Projects to Watch
Massive developments proposed in Baltimore and Miami Beach
Arena at the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel
Baltimore is on the move with a $900 million concept for the Inner Harbor district, revealed in May. Plans call for an 18,500-seat arena topped by a 500-room hotel (rendition above) that would be built with private funding on the site of the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel. The project, however, depends on a $400 million convention center expansion that will require state funding through the issue of bonds. The work would double the size of the facility to 760,000 square feet while connecting to the new arena and hotel. A feasibility study will be completed by the end of the year to determine whether the plans will move forward.

Meanwhile, Miami Beach is developing a $650 million project that would double the size of the city's namesake convention center, to 2 million square feet, and include the addition of 213,099 square feet of exhibit space, 205,016 square feet of prefunction space and more. The project also would build a 1,000-room headquarters hotel on the site of the Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater.

Omni Nashville> Omni NashvilleIn Music City, a new $250 million Omni convention center hotel will open for business in 2013. The property will feature 800 guest rooms, a Mokara Spa, and 80,000 square feet of meeting and event space. The 21-story hotel will be connected to a new 200,000-square-foot expansion of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and will share several new dining facilities, retail areas and some function space with the music venue. The latter will offer approximately 25,000 square feet of meeting space and also is slated for a 2013 debut.

The new Omni will represent headquarters lodging for Nashville Music City Center, a new convention facility opening in 2013. That venue will offer 60 meeting rooms plus a 350,000-square-foot exhibit hall and a 57,000-square-foot ballroom.

All three of the above projects are expected to be certified LEED Silver.

JW Marriott Indianapolis Downtown> JW Marriott Indianapolis Downtown The seven-acre, $450 million Marriott Place development in Indianapolis welcomed a new component in February with the opening of the JW Marriott Indianapolis Downtown. The 1,005-room property features about 104,000 square feet of function space, including 56 meeting rooms and a 40,500-square-foot ballroom that seats up to 4,200 people.

Other hotels within Marriott Place opened in February 2010 and include the 622-room Marriott Indianapolis Downtown, 295-room Courtyard by Marriott Indianapolis Downtown, 168-room Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Indianapolis Downtown and 156-suite SpringHill Suites by Marriott Indianapolis Downtown.

All Marriott Place properties are connected to the Indiana Convention Center, which finished a $275 million expansion in January. Additions include 254,000 square feet of exhibit space (for a total of 566,600 square feet) and 63,000 square feet of meeting space, in addition to 113,302 square feet across 71 meeting rooms and three ballrooms with a combined 62,173 square feet.

Palm Beach, Fla.
New Hilton for Palm Beach Fla> Hilton Coming to tony Palm Beach in 2015: a new 400-room Hilton hotel, which will be connected to the 350,000-square-foot Palm Beach County Convention Center. The $100 million project was approved in April and will occupy space in the city's convention and entertainment district. Nearby attractions for groups include the Raymond E. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts and CityPlace, which features more than 100 retail and dining options set within Italian-inspired architecture. The new hotel will have an as-yet-unspecified amount of meeting space.

The convention center, which sports more than a dozen new 52-inch plasma TVs lining the halls for use in sign­age and as design accents, features a 100,000-square-foot exhibit hall, a 22,000-square-foot ballroom and approximately 21,000 square feet of breakout space across 19 rooms.

Washington, D.C.
Washington Marriott Marquis> Washington Marriott Marquis After 15 years of planning, delegates to the nation's capital soon will find a sleek, new modern hotel steps away from the district's convention center. The $520 million Washington Marriott Marquis Hotel officially broke ground last November and should be completed in the spring of 2014, becoming only the fourth Marriott Marquis property in the United States.

The new hotel will offer 1,175 rooms (including 46 suites) and more than 100,000 square feet of meeting space. The property is adjacent to the 2.3 million-square-foot Walter E. Washington Convention Center and also will include five separate retail and restaurant outlets on the ground floor, in addition to a 6,000-square-foot fitness center. The venue is designed to earn LEED Silver certification via efforts to conserve energy, improve water efficiency, reduce CO2 emissions and more.

At the convention center, a recent  renovation project added more than 48,000 square feet of meeting space, new lighting and carpeting, and more than 140 digital displays and signs.

With the help from hometown institutions such as the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the District of Columbia's Commission on the Arts and Humanities, the center has accrued an art collection of more than 120 works, estimated to be worth more than $4 million. Items on display include sculpture, paintings and photography.