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The southwest region offers a sampling of Florida's many faces. To the west lies the pristine beaches and turquoise waters of the Gulf Coast. Along the shore, a broken necklace of islands winds from Port Charlotte in the north all the way down to Cape Sable, where the southwest tip of the Florida peninsula meets the sea. Here, meeting planners will find world-renowned resorts with spacious facilities and every imaginable amenity. Tropical weather and the natural beauty of the islands and beaches creates the ultimate setting for nighttime functions and off-site excursions.

The Everglades fringe the east side of this region, offering nature lovers a glimpse of the Florida that Ponce de Leon discovered when he first visited the area in 1513. Numerous walking, airboat, and swamp-buggy tours are available to explore this protected wetland ecosystem.

Inland, Fort Myers is home to the new Florida Gulf Coast University, the 10th in the state and the only major university under construction in the country. FGCU will open this fall, and a new United States courthouse is also scheduled to be completed in 1998.

The Harborside Convention Complex in the historic downtown area has 30,000 square feet of flexible meeting and exhibit space and features the Arcade Theater, a completely restored, turn-of-the-century theater with 396 seats. A parking garage behind the convention hall was completed in January, and expansion plans for the Convention Complex are slated to begin in the fall.

In Naples, the two largest convention facilities are the Ritz Carlton and the Registry Resort hotels. Neither currently has expansion or renovation plans slated for their convention facilities; however, all dining outlets at the Ritz Carlton will be renovated by November.

Meeting planners will appreciate the convenience and ease of the new Southwest Florida International Airport. While the airport has been at international status for less than two years, airport officials are already discussing plans to add a second runway and a new midfield terminal. Though congestion is less here than at many other airports in the state, officials are also considering new sign improvements for added convenience.

Many of the larger beach and island resorts have also undergone extensive expansions or renovations. Marriott's Marco Island Resort and Golf Club, recognized by Conde Nast Traveler as one of America's Top 20 Resorts, is the largest meeting and convention site on the Gulf Coast. The 50,000-square-foot meeting, conference, and exhibit wing was recently renovated along with one of the towers of hotel rooms and suites. Renovations in the second tower will be completed this summer, along with the addition of meeting space added to the Caxambas I and II rooms.

The nine properties comprising the South Seas Resorts boast an extensive selection of meeting and convention facilities. Properties include the secluded South Seas Plantation Resort & Yacht Harbor, with 27,000 square feet of meeting space; the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa, which recently expanded its meeting space from 18,000 to 24,000 square feet; and The Dunes Golf and Tennis Club, with a $2.5 million remodeling that renovated the entire golf course.

Highlights ...

* GuestFones are now available from the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce. Any guest visiting the area can borrow a cellular phone for a week at no charge. All calls to chamber members for directions, reservations, and other information are free.

* Boca Grande Pass, the opening between Cayo Costa and Gasparilla Islands, is considered the "Tarpon Fishing Capital of the World."
COPYRIGHT 1997 American Society of Association Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:A Guide to Florida; conference and convention facilities
Publication:Association Management
Date:Apr 1, 1997
Previous Article:Northwest.
Next Article:Southeast.

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