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A meeting sites guide to Florida.

Ask association executives for a favorite meeting and convention destination and you'll get the same answer over and over Florida. Why? "No one reason," they'll say, listing the many reasons their association members want to return to Florida year after year.

Florida has some of the best weather in the United States. The meeting facilities are state-of-the-art and well-run. Opportunities for optional pre- and post-conference tours abound. Families love the location. Service comes with a smile. Prices are reasonable. A Florida meeting site nearly guarantees a record-topping attendance.

In fact, if you're the association executive charged with planning a meeting, Florida is a perfect location.

In a world of magic among rolling hills and citrus groves, central Florida has emerged as the world's vacation destination. Visitors to the area are never more than a few minutes away from a film studio, a theme park, a golf course, a shopping center, a great restaurant, a body of water, a luxury hotel, a conference center, or just a place to relax. For those with a taste for variety and entertainment - and especially for association meetings - this part of Florida has it all.

"Having it all" starts with a wide range of modern conference centers and exhibit halls for visiting groups to use. The central region boasts some of the largest, most flexible, and most comfortable meeting halls found anywhere: the Centroplex and the Orange County Convention and Civic Center.

The Centroplex is actually a group of facilities - each with its own special qualities - conveniently located in downtown Orlando. Expo Center has 65,200 square feet of exhibit space on the ground floor and houses seven smaller meeting rooms with a combined total of 7,000 square feet. The Bob Carr Performing Arts Center, on the same site as Expo Center, has fixed seating for 2,500 people (proscenium stage width is 50 feet and height is 34 feet, 5 inches). The Omni international Hotel, connected to Expo Center, offers 290 deluxe guest rooms and suites, more than 14,000 square feet of meeting space, two restaurants, an outdoor pool, and a complete fitness center.

The Orange County Convention and Civic Center sits on 115 acres of tropically landscaped grounds and features beautiful, sunlit atriums, intimate courtyards, and a resort-like setting. It also features more than 350,000 square feet of exhibit space.

The center is heading into Phase III and IV of its expansion project, which will increase the total exhibit space to 1 million square feet by 1998. A total of 372,000 square feet will be added by January of 1996, and an additional 400,000 square feet will be completed by January of 1998.

In the meantime, associations can take full advantage of the 54 meeting rooms currently available, 1,000 feet Of loading docks, covered bus loading areas, a 360-foot registration concourse, and state-of-the-art audiovisual facilities.

With a dedicated, full-time conference services staff and more than 70,000 square feet of meeting and convention space, including a grand ballroom seating 1,500 for banquets, Grenelefe Resort and Conference Center has earned its reputation as Central Florida's finest and most flexible meeting destination.

A self-contained, 1,000-acre resort community, Grenelefe Resort and Conference Center has successfully hosted seminars, conferences, and conventions of all types and sizes, including corporate, association, incentive, and executive retreat meetings for such groups as Technical Association of Pulp and Paper Industry, Securites Industry Association, National Association of Chain Drugstores, and the National Association of Home Manufacturing Appliances.

Grenelefe's fully equipped conference center can accommodate from 10 to 2,000 people, and offers state-of-the-art staging, lighting, and audiovisual equipment. The conference center building includes 45,000 square feet of meeting space in 32 individual meeting rooms and two large ballrooms, one 16,000 square feet and the other 7,000.

Theme Park Heaven

If there's a theme park in existence, it exists in Orlando. Whether it's the splashy shows at Sea World or the enchantment of the Magic Kingdom, Orlando has it all. With the addition in recent years of the Disney-MGM Studios, as well as Universal Studios Florida, groups in search of the magic of Hollywood can make Orlando their last stop. Want to throw a theme party? You can have Mickey introduce your annual meeting, Snow White address the shareholders, or Goofy address the chair of the board. On second thought....

Convention and meeting facilities abound in this mecca of tourism, and first-class hotel properties attract groups interested in being in the thick of the action.

Walt Disney World is the undisputed main attraction' on earth. Each year more people come to visit Disney World than any other theme park or tourist site in the world, and each year the Disney organization gives people more and more reasons to come back.

The park has always been perfect for children - reason enough for many meetings to be held nearby - but it's a one-of-a-kind treat for adults as well. From the wonders of Epcot Center to the fireworks of the Magic Kingdom to a quiet getaway on the shores of Lake Buena Vista, Disney World fascinates and thrills. It con also be a life-size backdrop for almost any theme party. Inside the Disney complex, everything is on a grand scale, including the hotels.

The Peabody Orlando has just completed a $3 million renovation and refurbishing of all public spaces, meeting rooms, and quest rooms. The changes incorporate new colors, fabrics, and carpeting in most of the hotel.

The Peabody is an elegant 891-room, rose-marble masterpiece with a great deal more to offer than just its famous ducks. The hotel serves as headquarters for the Orange County Convention and Civic Center and boosts more than 20 meeting rooms of its own, including a cavernous 54,000-square-foot ballroom. The Peabody also features a full-service health spa with sauna and massage plus several restaurants and lounges that provide some of the best dining in town.

The Grosvenor Resort is situated on the shores of lake Buena Vista and offers more than 17,000 square feet of flexible meeting space including a 3,800-square-foot conference center. The Grosvenor Resort will complete a $1.25 million renovation of all 630 guest rooms by November 1992. New carpeting, decor colors, fabrics, and window treatments are included in the change.

It also offers the added benefit of being an official Walt Disney World hotel, which speaks to the sort of attention to detail quests and groups con expect. When it comes to accommodations, the central region offers associations many choices.

Central Florida's newest convention center opened on schedule in early January with the completion of a $12 million expansion program at Stouffer Orlando Resort.

The resort added 56,000 square feet of ballroom and prefunction space, boosting its overall convention and function space to a total of 185,000 square feet. The 780-room showplace now is one of the three largest resort convention facilities in Orlando. Since the January opening of the new convention center, the resort has booked numerous conventions and will be the site of many social events this year alone. Other associations and corporations have booked functions well into the future.

The addition includes a 36,000-square-foot ballroom which can be divided into more than 10 sections and a 15,000-square-foot prefunction area. It connects to the resort's atrium lobby via a 5,000-square-foot glass-enclosed concourse which also provides accessibility to the existing 17,325-square-foot Crystal Ballroom- which can accommodate 240 trade show exhibits or dining space for more than 3,000 persons; space for more than 5,000 persons for receptions and major conventions.

A City for the 21st Century

On the Gulf of Mexico side of central Florida is Tampa, a city ready for the 21st century. From a central downtown base, visitors can attend meetings in the new Tampa Convention Center, enjoy the luxury of a major hotel, and explore the

Latin heritage in atmospheric Ybor City.

When the Tampa Convention Center came on line lost year, providing groups with more than 200,000 square feet of exhibit space and a 36,000-square-foot ballroom, the city's meeting facilities became state-of-the-art. The city is in the process of taking the next step toward offering associations everything they need to put on a really big show.

"The city has contracted with Grubb and Ellis for a six-month feasibility study to examine the possibility of puffing in a really big convention hotel downtown,' says Jim Wood, marketing director for the Tampa Convention and Visitors Bureau. "The study should be completed early next year, and then we'll move forward from there."

Although the greater Tampa area can offer about 10,000 hotel rooms, that number dwindles to about 1,000 in the downtown area, close to the new center. "We've been keeping a file on every piece of business we've lost over the lost three years because the group needed a larger room block. With more rooms downtown, we'll be able to go after that business," says Wood.

Visitors con also shop at Tampa's Harbour Island marketplace, a downtown attraction that is, in fact, an island. You can hitch a ride on the city's ultra-modern "people mover" for a quick ride to the shops and then enjoy a day of wandering through boutiques, novelty shops, and restaurants.

Imagine a place where the warm sun smiles upon uncrowded white beaches - a place where you con find clearness of mind and watch the setting sun point the sky in every color of the rainbow.

Most people would expect to find this place for south in the Caribbean Sea. However, this place exists right in Florida. Manatee County, conveniently located on Florida's west coast just south of Tampa and served by two airports, is the perfect place to hold meetings or to enjoy post-meeting diversions.

Manatee County boosts 20 miles of Florida's best beaches, an array of water sports, light-hearted special events, historical sites, fresh seafood dining, and close proximity to cultural activities. Also, Manatee County offers a wide selection of accommodations.

Simple, Natural Elegance

While the Orlando area has become a mecca for family travelers, and Tampa offers the Gulf Coast appeal, the southwestern part of the state has devoted itself to building a reputation for simple, natural elegance.

In this region, the natural beauty of Florida is so well blended with luxury accommodations, it con be hard to tell where one ends and another begins. Here, the grounds of a resort might feature an English garden that reaches right to the edge of the Everglades. Major resorts capable of hosting meetings for more than a thousand quests can be almost invisible, covered with lush palm trees and rolling green lawns.

The largest city in the area is Fort Myers, a picturesque town where almost any residential street con be a tour of historic homes and perfectly restored building,%. The city is famed for freshwater fishing (it sits 15 miles inland) and for the many recreational activities its waters afford.

One of the favorite man-made sight-seeing attractions of Fort Myers is Thomas Edison's winter home. This retreat features a restored main house, botanical gardens, and one of the most complete displays of Edison's many inventions. From the phonograph to the light bulb to moving pictures, the creative genius of Edison still fascinates visitors year in and year out.

To the south of Fort Myers lies the region's gateway to the Everglades, and each side of that gateway presents meeting and tourism alternatives all its own.

To the west is the secluded, tropical hideaway of Marco island, a paradise surrounded by clear Gulf waters. Here, visitors leave the rest of the world behind for a while and spend their time concentrating on their meetings, conferences, or play. Here too, quests con meet and relax in total comfort, because Marco Island is home to such superior properties as the Marriott Marco Island Resort.

Marriott's Marco Island Resort is situated on some of the Gulf's most breathtaking beachfront, with generous rooms and panoramic views that allow guests to enjoy Gulf sunsets without leaving the comfort of their accommodations. The resort is a comprehensive facility - perfect for meetings of up to 1,600 people - and equipped with state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment, 40,000 square feet of meeting space, and a professional meeting staff.

Marco Island, just south of Naples on Florida's southwestern coast, is minutes away from "civilization" yet seems far removed from the stress, strain, and pressure of the working world. This sense of placid isolation makes properties like Marriott's Marco Island Resort and Golf Club an ideal place to mix business with plenty of pleasure. New to the property is a par-72 championship golf course, designed by renowned golf architect Joe Lee.

"The course is very unusual, in that it's carved out of 240 acres of southwestern Florida cyprus, palms, and pine trees," says Mark Donnelly, director of soles for the property.

In addition to the 18-hole course, a 14-acre practice facility with greens for chipping and puffing as well as a sand rap area presents a challenging warm - up for golfers of all levels. "We're going after the golf market very aggressively,' says Donnelly. "We're one of the oldest resorts in the area - we opened in 1973 - and I know that we've lost some business because the groups wanted golf facilities. Now we have them."

In addition to the new course, the property offers meeting planners 48,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 14,000-square-foot exhibit hall. The resort's facilities include 735 rooms, 70 suites, 16 tennis courts, and every watersport imaginable for taking advantage of the worm Gulf surf.

"Our room nights were down in the first quarter of 1991, but 1992 is already more booked than this year was," says Donnelly, "I think the golf course is going to draw for us. And we're ready for the business."

In addition, the Marco Island Resort boosts plenty of diversions for quests off-hours enjoyment: several restaurants and lounges, ample tennis courts, a championship golf course, and of course plenty of beachfront and water sports. If ever there was a resort perfectly designed for mixing business with healthy doses of relaxation and recreation, the Marriott Marco Island Resort is it.

But those who stay on the mainland in the southwest region have some very special choices of their own.

Radisson Suite Beach Resort, also on Marco Island, has 8,900 square feet of state-of-the-art meeting, conference, and banquet facilities for groups of 10 to 300. The newly decorated 12-story resort hotel features 269 one- and two-bedroom suites and quest rooms. All offer a Gulfview balcony and feature a private master bedroom, living room with sleeper sofa, and kitchen. Other amenities include pool, tennis, exercise facilities and a game room. Visitors can take advantage of the beautiful Gulf waters by participating in one or all of the many water sports available - such as sailing, waterskiing, wave running, windsurfing, parasailing, or aqua biking.

More of Everything

Everywhere in Florida there are reasons for attracting meetings - great climate, facilities, beautiful beaches - but one place has to top the list. It may be Miami.

The area seems to have more of everything that makes Florida famous in the first place: palm trees, banyans, and bright, blue clear skies; placid boy waters and crashing ocean surf; endless supplies of beautiful sunshine.

Miami is full and lush. Whatever the pursuit, whatever the pastime, there is plenty to choose from in Miami. Entertainment can be as peaceful as bike riding or as exotic as a nightclub show. The area con be as familiar as any main street or as intriguing as Little Havana. But no matter what pastime quests prefer, they will find it in Miami.

Associations will find a wide selection of hotels with meeting facilities to choose from. The city skyline is famous for the ice-cream pastel resorts that line its beaches, and many of those are well prepared to handle even the largest meetings and conventions.

While in the Miami area, visitors con enjoy the unending variety of food and restaurants - from Cuban cuisine to traditional seafood - and a fine array of cultural diversions.

Miami, more than any other Florida destination, has experienced a boom in recent years. More than 8 million visitors came to Miami last year, with increased international air service bringing even more ethnic diversity to this colorful multi-cultural city. Home to 17 cruise ships, the Port of Miami anticipates hosting 4 million passengers annually by 1995. With planned expansion already underway at many of the city's hotels, it's clear that meeting specialists enjoy a host of options in this dynamic location.

The famed Art Deco district, brimming with much lauded restaurants, galleries, and nightspots, is one of the area's most popular neighborhoods. The recent completion of a $90.3 million expansion and renovation of Greater Miami's Convention Center, which doubles its size to 1.1 million square feet, only adds to the city's appeal. Merrett Stierheim, president of the Greater Miami CVB, emphasizes what all this means to the city's bottom line. "We had more visitors last year than ever before, which translates to $6.1 billion in total revenues for Greater Miami. Despite the current economic crunch, 1992 is already promising to out-perform those numbers."

On the ocean, in exclusive Bal Harbour, midway between Miami International Airport and Fort Lauderdale International Airport, the Sheraton Bal Harbour Resort is convenient to everything - one block from the causeway across Biscayne Bay to the city of Miami.

The Sheraton Bal Harbour Resort towers above a 10-acre tropical garden, a 300-foot-wide beach, and the sapphire blue Gulf Stream that abounds with challenges to the deep-sea fisherman. With two pools, tennis on premises, a vita course and jogging path on the beach, an exercise facility, beach volleyball plus boating and sailing of every description, one need not leave the resort to find fun and keep fit. Moreover, the Sheraton Bal Harbour Resort enjoys relationships with several golf courses in the area and can arrange for group or individual tee times and tournaments.

The world-famous Bal Harbour Shops are located directly across the street from the resort with more than 100 trendy stores and boutiques, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Cartier, Gucci, and so forth.

The Grace of the Palm Beaches

Another long-time favorite meeting location is the Palm Beaches and the Boca Raton Hotel and Racquet Club, a hotel where being rich and famous is a given. The Boca Raton was originally designed by Addison Mizner, one of the most creative architects of the century, and his design has proven itself as the years have gone by.

Fully modernized, the Boca Raton boosts 963 rooms and offers approximately 70,000 square feet of meeting space with 32 meeting rooms that can accommodate from 10 to 1,500 people. Of course, there are also ample tennis, golf, and other recreational facilities, but for many meeting quests, the real recreation lies in who they might see or meet during their relaxing stay at the Boca Raton Hotel.

The Palm Beaches are the perfect choice for a one-of-a-kind event. Their style, grace, traditions, and elegance form an enchanting background for even the most experienced group, and their beauty is sure to make for a memorable visit.

The Beauty of the Panhandle

On Florida's northwestern coast, sits a stretch of panhandle beach that rivals any of the state's sand for whiteness fineness, and sheer beauty. One of the premier properties in this area and located about 15 minutes from Panama City beach, is Marriott Bay Point, a five-year-old resort boasting 25,000 square feet of meeting space. Ranked number one among all of Marriott's franchise properties across the country, Marriott Bay Point offers a well-trained staff fully experienced in staging special events and group functions. The hotel has hosted the Memphis Bankers, Alabama Oilmen and Tennessee Truckers in recent months, drawing many groups from the southern market. Barry Schoen, director of marketing for the property, is happy to report that expanded air service into Panama City airport has already opened up new markets to Marriott Bay Point. "We're now being served by three flights every day, non-stop, from Atlanta on. Delta airlines," says Schoen, "This is going to make us available to a lot more groups out of the Northeast and Midwest." Northwest Airlines out of the midwest has also increased area flights, with USAir adding more flights between Tampa and Panama City. "Broadening our appeal is key to keeping our marketing efforts on a competitive level," says Schoen.

Whatever your final choice of Florida meeting destination, you've already made your job easier. You've chosen Florida ! SEE FLORIDA Coast to coast to coast

For More Information, Contact:
 Boca Raton
 Resort & club
 P.O. Box 5025
 Boca Raton, FL 33431-0825
 (407) 395-3000
 Fort Myers Harborside
Conference & Convention Council
 P.O. Box 9322
 Fort Myers, FL 33902
 (813) 332-6655
 Grenelefe Resort &
 Conference Center
 3200 SR 546
 Haines City, FL 33844
 (800) 422-5333
 Grosvenor Resort
 Walt Disney World Village
 Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
 (800) 522-3272
 Manatee County CVB
 P.O. Box 1000, Dept. MN-1
 Bradenton, FL 34206
 (800) 822-2017
 Marriott Bay Point
 100 Dellwood Beach Rd.
 Panama City Beach, FL 32411
 (800) 874-7105
Marriott's Marco island
 Resort & Golf Club
 400 South Collier Blvd.
 Marco Island, FL 33937
 (813) 394-2511
 Miami CVB
 701 Brickell Ave.
 Miami, FL 33131
 (800) 933-8448
 Omni Orlando Hold
 at Centroplex
 400 W. Livingston St.
 Orlando, FL 32801
 (800) THE-OMNI
 Orlando County
Convention/Civic Center
 9800 International Drive
 Orlando, FL 32819-8199
 (407) 345-9800
 Orlando Centroplex
 500 W. Livingston St.
 Orlando, FL 32801
 (407) 849-2562
 Peabdy Orlando
 9801 international Drive
 Orlando, FL 32819
 (800) 42-DUCKS
 Raddisson Marco Island
 600 S. Collier Blvd.
 Marco Island, FL 33937
 (813) 394-4100
 Sheraton Bal Harbour
 9701 Collins Ave.
 Bal Harbour, FL 33154
 (305) 865-7511
Stouffer Orlando Resort
 & Convention Center
 6677 Sea Harbor Drive
 Orlando, FL 32821
 (800) 327-1/277
 Convention Center
 600 Ashley Drive
 Tampa, FL 33602
 ( 813) 223-8422
 Walt Disney World
 P.O. Box 10,000
 Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
 (407) 828-3200
COPYRIGHT 1991 American Society of Association Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:A Supplement to Association Management
Publication:Association Management
Date:Nov 1, 1991
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