Convene On Site

Tampa Bay Makes the Most of the RNC

Tampa Bay & Company was so eager to capitalize on the media attention of the 2012 Republican National Convention (RNC), which the destination hosted on Aug. 27–30, that it brought in a fam trip the week before the RNC.

It was an inspired idea – showing off everything Tampa did to prepare for the convention, within the context of a city where a rich history mingles with state-of-the-art meeting facilities and a variety of venues in a friendly, tropical setting.

Our group of industry reporters and meeting planners stayed at the Westin Tampa Harbour Island, which is directly across Garrison Channel – and a short walk – from the Tampa Convention Center. Renovated in 2007, the hotel includes 299 guest rooms and more than 18,000 square feet of function space. On our second morning, the Hyatt Regency Tampa, which is also within easy walking distance of the convention center, hosted us for breakfast in an elegant Chairman’s Suite. The Hyatt has 521 recently renovated guest rooms and more than 30,000 square feet of function space.

Located directly on Tampa Bay, the convention center makes the most of its waterfront location. Floor-to-ceiling windows flood the lobby area with natural light, while glass doors open to a large terrace directly on the bay. Beyond the resort feel of its public spaces, the 600,000-square-foot facility features 200,000 square feet of exhibit space, a 36,000-square-foot ballroom, and 36 breakout rooms. The center recently invested nearly $100 million in upgrading its lighting to high-efficiency, low-heat LED; other upgrades include Wi-Fi throughout the building and extended cellular coverage.

Elsewhere in Tampa, the new USF Health Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Stimulation (CAMLS) is a $38-million, one-of-a-kind facility. It is expected to draw 30,000 health professionals a year to learn advanced surgical skills using the latest simulation technology. Not that you need to host a medical meeting to make use of the space. CAMLS offers full-time meeting planners on site, 28,000 square feet of meeting space, and a 200-person auditorium with hardwiring for satellite videoconferencing, a built-in audience-response system, and Wi-Fi.

Tampa also offers a variety of unique settings for social events, including the Henry B. Plant Museum, which is a lifestyle museum dedicated to the Gilded Age of the former Tampa Bay Hotel; and the Florida Aquarium, which is home to more than 20,000 aquatic plants and animals, and provides a variety of settings for private parties. And Ybor City, Tampa’s old Latin quarter, is a designated National Historic Landmark District, where restaurants and nightclubs line revitalized 7th Avenue.

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Molly Brennan

Convene Contributing Editor Molly Brennan is a freelance writer and editor based in Highland Park, Illinois.