SAN JUAN -- Nowhere in San Juan is the construction pace more
intense than at the site of the new convention center, already
close to 50% complete and on track for an opening in mid-2005.
The center's dominant architectural feature -- a roof shaped
like a giant, translucent wave -- is in place.
The selection of the flagship anchor hotel will be made next
month from among the three finalists: Hyatt, Marriott and
Jorge Pescara, executive director of the Puerto Rico Convention
Bureau (PRCB), which is the sales and marketing agent for the
convention center, said the facility "will make Puerto Rico the
meetings hub of the Americas."
"The center will be able to handle groups from 2,500 to 10,000
attendees," he added. "It will create a singular destination for
conventions, trade shows, consumer shows and congresses. We will be
able to go after 83% of all the conventions that are held now in
In fact, the PRCB already has booked five large groups,
including the 6,000 attendees expected at the annual U.S. Hispanic
Chamber of Commerce convention in September 2007, beating out
competing venues in Memphis, Nashville and Orlando.
The facility is not a stand-alone meetings facility but is the
centerpiece of a 113-acre, $415 million planned urban development
project "where people will live, work, visit and convene," Pescara
"The Puerto Rico Convention District will emerge as a bustling
community of shops, restaurants, movie theaters, offices,
residential units, hotels and plazas that are part of the
district's master plan."
The convention center also will showcase Puerto Rico's tropical
setting and cultural heritage, from the Caribbean Sea motif at the
roofline to a massive, three-story glass wall on the front of the
building that "will bring the ocean, landscape and skies indoors,"
"Riding the escalators from the lobby, conventioneers will see
palm trees, ocean and San Juan."
Meeting-room doors will replicate the doors of Old San Juan;
artwork and floors will mirror Puerto Rico's El Yunque rain forest
in color and design.
Natural materials of wood and stone will be used in many of the
meetings rooms; the world's largest chandelier will dominate the
ballroom, the largest in the Caribbean with a seating capacity for
Pescara ticked off other fun facts:
• At 580,000 square feet, the convention center "is grand
enough" to house 10 football fields, 123 basketball courts or 11
"If you hit a baseball from one end of it to the other, it would
be a home run at a major league baseball park," Pescara said.
• The technologically advanced facility will have approximately
440 miles of wires and cables, longer than the miles of beaches
that rim Puerto Rico.
• The 36,200 square feet of meetings space will be divisible
into 25 breakout rooms. "That's more rooms than there are galleries
in the Smithsonian
National Air & Space Museum," Pescara said.
For more details on this article, see A building boom on Puerto Rico's 'Golden