NEW YORK -- Palm Beach County will build on its good reputation and
attempt to expand its visitor base, Warren McLaughlin, president
and chief executive officer of the Palm Beach County Convention
& Visitors Bureau, said at a press luncheon here.
The long-awaited convention center now has all of its financing in
place, he said. This will assure that sufficient operating funds
will be available after it opens in late 2001.
The center, to cost about $52 million, will break ground in
downtown West Palm Beach in late spring, and it will offer
(tentatively) 265,000 square feet of space, including 100,000
square feet for exhibits.
Plans call for the convention center to be managed by the bureau
or by a company that will be closely supervised by the bureau,
according to McLaughlin. Having the bureau, which pledges a high
level of service to meeting groups, oversee that service
underscores its determination to follow through, he added.
An anchor hotel of up to 450 rooms is also planned, he said,
with the opening planned for 2002, possibly earlier. Selection of a
hotel management company is pending.
The convention center and hotel will be part of the $375
million, 77-acre CityPlace mixed use project, which will occupy
both sides of Okeechobee Boulevard. Offices, restaurants, movie
theaters, boutique shops and other retail establishments will lease
space on the site. Ground was broken on the major section of
CityPlace in mid-December.
Also part of CityPlace is the existing Kravis Center, West Palm
Beach's major entertainment facility, noted for its celebrity
performers, concerts, operas and shows.
Meanwhile, the Port of Palm Beach (on Singer Island) plans to
construct a $12 million passenger terminal, broadening its capacity
to handle the overflow from Port Everglades and the port of Miami,
as a base for cruise ships sailing to the Caribbean. The new
five-story terminal, 95-feet long, is set to open in summer
Two ships will be able to board passengers or offload them at
the same time as there will be 40,000 square feet of interior space
for passenger use, including U.S. Customs and Immigration
facilities. In addition, parking for 1,000 cars will be on
From the terminal, there will be panoramic views of Palm Beach,
the Intracoastal Waterway and the shipping lanes.
Two gambling ships that operate from the port's temporary
terminal, are each making day cruises. They are the Contessa of
Contessa International Cruise Line and the Palm Beach Princess,
Palm Beach Cruise Line.
From time to time, larger ships such as the Radisson Diamond
operate short cruises from the Port of Palm Beach or call there,
according to a port official.
McLaughlin reported that West Palm Beach Airport will be able to
handle nonstop wide-body jets bound for California, Europe or Latin
America once a 10,000-foot long runaway is constructed, possibly as
early as next winter. At this time, the facility's longest runway
Once the Port of Palm Beach starts offering one-week cruises and
the runway is lengthened, the long-term plans call for selling
Europeans on two-week stays, with one week spent on land, the other
at sea, McLaughlin said.
Because Palm Beach County currently lacks a major convention
center, a modern cruise port and runways long enough for jumbo
jets, visitor interests have been concentrating on what the local
tourist plant could handle. That business consists largely of
meeting groups and trade shows able to use hotels' meeting
facilities, visitors looking for day cruises and traditional
vacationers, many of them upscale.
Over the years, Palm Beach County suppliers have done a good job
serving these sectors, McLaughlin said.
The county posted record visitor arrivals, resort tax
collections and hotel occupancy levels for the year ending Sept.
30. Palm Beach County CVB. Phone: (800) 833-5733