The latest crop of new builds, restorations and renovations widens meeting options across the country.
> The 342-room JW Marriott Minneapolis Mall of America added a new level of luxury and nearly 20,000 square feet of meeting space to the Twin Cities area in Minnesota when it opened in late 2015. Planners will have to work to keep attendees from skipping sessions to head to Mall of America across the street.
> Continuing the renaissance of Clearwater Beach, Florida, Opal Sands Resort opened its doors in February. The 230-room property is a sister property to Sandpearl Resort and has 25,000 square feet of meeting space. A major selling point for groups is a view of the Gulf of Mexico from every guest room.
> Groups headed to San Diego have a new outdoor venue that can accommodate up to 5,000 people with the opening of Horton Plaza Park in May. The public space near the Gaslamp Quarter has several spaces for private use, including the 9,300-sq.-ft. amphitheater, and is also available for entire buyouts.
> Not to be outdone, Las Vegas also revealed a new outdoor destination this spring. The Park, owned by MGM Resorts International, is an alfresco dining and entertainment district on the Strip that also serves as a gateway to the new 20,000-seat T-Mobile Arena.
> Hilton Orlando, connected to Orange County Convention Center via covered walkway, unveiled 11,000 square feet of meeting space in March. Dare we say, the carpet in the Key Largo and Key West rooms is quite beautiful.
> The historic Redmont Hotel Birmingham joined the Curio Collection by Hilton brand in March, the second Alabama property to do so. The boutique hotel has 120 renovated guest rooms and houses an upscale Italian restaurant, Harvest.
> Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina is banking on the completion of a massive $107 million renovation in June to draw more meeting groups this summer and beyond. Notably, the improvement added the largest two-level ballroom on the West Coast, complete with a Swarovski crystal ceiling installation and a 16-screen video wall system, plus the outdoor Marina Terrace and Marina Walk.
> Big changes are coming to Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Workers broke ground in March on a renovation project to Benton Convention Center, which will include significant design and technology updates to the 100,000-sq.-ft. building. It’s expected to be completed in spring 2017 and will remain open during construction.
> A $600 million expansion may be on the way for Baltimore Convention Center. Officials are discussing possible plans to double the 37-year-old center’s existing 300,000 square feet of exhibition space and add a new hotel.
> The world’s busiest airport is slated for a major face-lift to the tune of $6 billion, according to city officials. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport will undergo a 20-year renovation project that will include changes to its traffic lanes and domestic terminal and concourses, and add a new runway. It’s expected to get underway this year.