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 October 25, 2001
Tampa Convention Center Expansion Complete

 With the completion of a $5.9 million convention center expansion that doubles its number of breakout rooms, Tampa is drawing larger meetings than ever before. The expansion of the 600,000-square-foot Tampa Convention Center, which is located directly on the downtown waterfront, doubles its number of breakout rooms from 18 to 36 through a reconfiguration of already existing space. Divided equally between the center's first and third floors, the new rooms range from 500 to 1,600 square feet, and many include waterfront and cityscape views.

In addition to the new breakout rooms, the Tampa Convention Center plans to open a new Outback Steakhouse bistro-style riverwalk restaurant, new business center and various nationally branded concessions next year.

Since the opening of the convention center a decade ago, attractions like The Florida Aquarium and Ice Palace arena have opened as exciting off-site function options and luxurious downtown hotels have completed million dollar renovation projects. Most recently the Tampa Marriott Waterside hotel adjacent to the convention center, entertainment complexes in Ybor City and at Garrison Seaport and the high fashion International Plaza have opened. "These major developments, combined with the expanded center, are redefining Tampa as a convention destination," says Paul Catoe, President & CEO of the Tampa Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau, who adds that Tampa is now drawing groups that once were to considered too large for the Florida Gulf Coast destination to accommodate. One such group is the Shrine of North America, which will hold its annual convention of 20,000 Shriners in Tampa in 2006.

"The opening of the new meeting space at our Convention Center is exciting as it gives us the ability to attract larger and more diverse groups," says John Moors, Administrator, Convention Facilities & Tourism, City of Tampa. "Coupled with the Tampa Marriott Waterside meeting space, our new breakout rooms present a package that is very flexible and adaptable for all of our varied market segments."

The 717-room Tampa Marriott Waterside opened adjacent to the convention center in March 2001, bringing an additional 50,000 square feet of meeting space to the downtown waterfront. The resort-style property features a spa with 10 treatment rooms, balconies and three restaurants.

A few blocks down the waterfront, next to the 20,000-seat Ice Palace hockey arena, Channelside entertainment complex opened this year with multiple restaurants, shops and movie theatres. The $35 million entertainment complex complements The Florida Aquarium and ever-growing cruise port that already exist at Garrison Seaport Center.

To be connected to the seaport and downtown by Tampa's Historic Streetcar electric trolley next year is nearby Ybor City, Tampa's Latin Quarter. Rich with history and culture by day, the "cigar city" comes alive at night with restaurants, clubs, bars and shops. The $45 million Centro Ybor entertainment complex, which includes 20 movie theaters, GameWorks, Impro comedy club, a cigar museum and multiple shops and restaurants, recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of its grand opening.

But Tampa's growth doesn't stop at the downtown core. The Westshore Business District is now an upscale retail center with the September 2001 opening o International Plaza. The high-end shopping plaza brings nearly 100 new-to-the-market retailers to Tampa Bay including department stores Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Lord & Taylor.