The Fort Lauderdale Convention Collection
A new program unites six hotels to create deals for planners
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.
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.
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 BeachBaltimore 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
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 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
All three of the above projects are expected to be certified LEED Silver.
> 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.
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
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.
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.
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 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.