SAN JUAN -- Preparations for opening a convention center on a
tropical island extend well beyond and begin far before funding is
arranged, architectural plans drawn up and groundbreaking
This was demonstrated recently at a seminar hosted by the Puerto
Rico Convention Bureau and the Puerto Rico Convention Center as
part of the bureau's ongoing Partner Education Program series for
members, suppliers and the local community.
The education series, which began with the groundbreaking in
November 2001 and will continue as an ongoing program until the
center's projected opening in summer 2005, focuses on all aspects
of convention operations.
The seminar, held at the Museo del Arte in San Juan, was
attended by 200 convention bureau members, government officials and
Six hospitality experts, representing hotel chains, visitors
bureaus and convention planners, contributed feedback on topics
that ranged from the competitive positioning of Puerto Rico as a
convention destination to the roles of a destination team and the
key elements used by meeting planners when selecting a convention
Jorge Pesquera, executive director of the Puerto Rico Convention
Bureau, described the center as "Puerto Rico's single most
important project benefitting the tourism industry."
"It is our official entry into the major leagues in the
convention and trade show marketplace," Pesquera said. "Meetings
planners will get a state-of-the-art facility in the Caribbean with
capacity ranging from 2,500 to more than 10,000 attendees."
He added that the center "will place Puerto Rico at the
forefront of meetings destinations."
The Puerto Rico Convention Bureau already has accepted bookings
for late 2005 and beyond.
The statistics are staggering from the aspect of size: 580,000
square feet, including a 152,700-square-foot exhibition hall, a
39,500-square-foot ballroom and 36,400 square feet of meetings
space, accommodating 25 breakout rooms.
Depending upon the configuration, the center will be able to
handle close to 17,600 in theater-style seating.
The facility will be the centerpiece of a $400 million
investment project on a 113-acre site called the Puerto Rico
Convention Center District, "one of the most ambitious waterfront
projects of its kind in the Americas," according to Pesquera.
The site is the former U.S. Naval and Coast Guard base in San
Juan's Isla Verde section, near Old San Juan, the airport and the
Condado hotel and tourist district.
The Puerto Rico Convention Center District will include an
adjacent 850-room hotel, to open in 2006; offices; shops; cinemas;
and restaurants. Landscaping will include gardens, fountains,
pedestrian walkways and entertainment venues.