F&D Destination: Florida

Florida’s balmy weather and laidback atmosphere belie the energetic, forward-thinking convention industry found in its first-tier cities. Miami and Orlando are both working to ensure their respective convention centers remain state of the art and able to accommodate the ongoing influx of large meeting groups. Whether the draw for attendees is Orlando’s renowned theme parks or Miami’s vibrant culture and nightlife, planners have compelling reasons to book either city, including convention center quality.

The Miami Beach Convention Center, built in 1957 and currently spanning 1.2 million sq. ft., is undergoing a $615 million renovation and expansion. Scheduled for completion in 2018, the project will bring the facility to over 1.4 million sq. ft., including a new 60,000-sq.-ft. grand ballroom; 20,000-sq.-ft. rooftop junior ballroom; additional meeting, lobby and prefunction space; and expanded rooftop parking. Highly flexible function spaces and the latest technology will also be part of the new Miami Beach Convention Center, as GM Matt Hollander recently told F&D (see “The Spectra Difference” in the F&D Fall issue).

Meanwhile, Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center has been undergoing a five-year, $187 million capital improvement project since 2013. Completed elements include the Hall C Food Court renovation, new West Building carpeting, a new 7,000-sq.-ft. Destination Lounge in the South Building, the Center-to-Table Gardens cultivating herbs and vegetables for meals prepared at the OCCC, and the renovation of the 62,182-sq.-ft. Valencia Ballroom. Further expansions and renovations are being considered for the longer term, including a new, 130,000-sq.-ft. multipurpose hall in the North/South building.

It’s not only Florida’s first-tier cities that have meeting facility news to share. Throughout the state, planners can find promising hotel developments. Last year, for example, Palm Beach County welcomed the Hilton West Palm Beach, connected to the Palm Beach County Convention Center (PBCC). The new property has certainly garnered West Palm more interest from planners, and deservedly so.

SOUTHEAST

WEST PALM BEACH

Served by the Palm Beach International Airport, West Palm Beach is home to many points of interest beyond a scenic seaside. CityPlace, an upscale shopping and dining hub, and the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts are both in walking distance to the PBCC. The Norton Museum of Art, Henry Morrison Flagler Museum and downtown Clematis Street are all a short trip away, effectively making the PBCC a great vantage point for group excursions. The convention center houses a 100,000-sq.-ft. exhibit hall, a 25,000-sq.-ft. ballroom and 21,000 sq. ft. of breakout space divisible into 19 rooms. Groups lodging at the 400-room Hilton West Palm Beach have convenient access to these facilities, but some planners have found the hotel itself ideal for a contained event.

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