APR 2018

ConventionSouth magazine is the leading resource for meeting planners who book all types of events, conventions, conferences and group travel in the south.

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⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ A P R I L 2 0 1 8 w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m 52 F L O R I D A Sarasota, scheduled to open this summer, will have a 2,500-square-foot ballroom and seven additional meeting rooms. Additionally, the 294-room Hyatt Regency Sarasota continues to offer a good option for meeting planners, with a 10,000-square-foot ballroom and 15 meeting rooms. Special-event sites include Michael's on the Bay at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, an indoor 4,800- square-foot venue with 80 feet of glass windows looking out on the bay and an outdoor balcony. The Ringling offers The Mu- seum of Art Courtyard, which features replica classical sculptures and accommodates 800 people. The Ca' d'Zan Mansion, former home to circus impresario John Ringling, overlooks Sarasota Bay and has a terrace that accommo- dates 250. Charlotte Harbor About 50 miles south of Sarasota, the Charlotte Harbor area offers the new Peace River Botan- ical & Sculpture Gardens, a 27-acre waterfront site with an island amphitheater. Boardwalks and docks are in the planning stages. There's also the Babcock Ranch in Punta Gorda, a 67,000-acre sustainable community, which offers guided boat tours, standup paddleboard, kayak and bike rentals, and recently opened Table & Tap, a farm-to-table restaurant. "Things are definitely happening in Punta Gorda," said Jim Finch, general manager of the Charlotte Harbor Event & Conference Cen- ter. "A new Spring Hill Suites is scheduled to open this summer, just across the street from the Event Center. This, combined with the new restaurants, park improvements and other planned community developments, makes for an exciting time in our community." The five-floor 104-room Marriott Springhill Suites hotel will offer a fitness center and pool. Meanwhile, The Wyvern Hotel in Punta Gorda recently completed a major renovation and up- grade. A new rooftop Chef's Herb Garden has been created, guest rooms have been enhanced, and the property's 88 Keys restaurant and piano bar have been redesigned. Other notable properties in Punta Gorda in- clude the Four Points by Sheraton Punta Gorda Waterside, with 106 guestrooms and three meeting spaces, the Punta Gorda Waterfront Hotel & Suites, with 188 rooms and 5,000 square feet of meeting space, and Palm Island Resort, with 1,200 square feet of meeting space. The largest meeting facility in the area, the Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Cen- ter, underwent improvements in the past year including the installation of new carpet in the 20,000-square-foot Hibiscus Hall, adding A/V equipment in all meeting rooms, and procur- ing new tables and 2,000 new stack chairs. The venue has several thousand square feet additional to the main ballroom, as well as an 18,000-square-foot lawn. Additional meeting facilities around Char- lotte Harbor include the Cultural Center of Charlotte County, with a 7,000-plus square- foot conference center, a 3,000-plus square- foot hall, and several additional rooms with several thousand more square feet of meeting and function space; the Englewood Event Cen- ter, with 6,400 square feet of meeting space; and the Kings Gate Golf Club in Port Charlotte with more than 7,000 square feet of meeting space. The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel Some 50 miles of beaches, more than 12,000 hotel rooms, beachside resorts, a historic downtown, lots of good eateries (many new), the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum on Sanibel Island, the 1,850-seat Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall, spring Major League Baseball training and an extraordinary number of festivals and special annual events are just a few of the reasons this Gulf Coast area in southwest Florida appeals to many meeting planners. And though The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel is the official name of the CVB, it promotes Fort Myers proper, North Fort Myers and Lehigh Acres, Sanibel Island, Captiva Island, Bonita Springs, Estero, Cape Coral, Pine Island, Boca Grande & Outer Islands. The meetings venue and accommodations scene in this area continues to develop. In Fort Myers, a 180-room Drury Inn & Suites recently opened at the Gulf Coast Town Center and in early 2019 The Luminary Hotel & Co., a 12-story 237-room hotel, will open along the waterfront, connected to Harborside Event Center. Part of Marriott International's Auto- graph Collection, the new hotel will feature The Silver King Ocean Brasserie; Ella Mae's Diner; The Workshop, a culinary laboratory; the Beacon Social Drinkery rooftop lounge; a pool area on the fourth floor overlooking the Caloosahatchee River, as well as 8,000 square feet of function space. Meanwhile, Harborside Event Center is cur- rently closed for major renovations but contin- ues to accept inquiries for 2019 and beyond. In nearby Estero, the 114-room extend- ed-stay TownePlace Suites by Marriott Fort Myers / Estero opened recently at Coconut Point. The Island Inn on Sanibel Island, operat- Amara Cay Resort on Islamorada The first meeting resort property to reopen on Islamorada following Hurricane Irma's visit last September, Amara Cay Resort has been up and running since December and offers a gorgeous spot for small meetings, special events, corporate retreats and incentive travel. n Site Visit Highlight: A RESTORED TROPICAL GEM The Gates Hotel Key West Located on the northern side of Key West The Gates Hotel Key West is a stylish oasis set apart from the busy tourist area of the island's famous downtown, but offers a free shuttle for groups that want to experience the wild side. Paired with 240 Degrees North Hotel next door, The Gates offers several unique smaller meeting sites, in- cluding a new event lawn overlooking the ocean which is used for receptions and social events. n Site Visit Highlight: KEY WEST CALM

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