San Juan — As they say in Puerto Rico, “mi casa es su casa“— “my house is your house.” “Now, Puerto Rico has a bigger house to host more friends,” says Ana María Viscasillas, President and CEO of the Puerto Rico Convention and Visitors Bureau (PRCB), during the opening festivities of the new Puerto Rico Convention Center (PRCC). The city of San Juan inaugurated the $412 MIL facility with three days of activities late last week.
Approximately 1,500 business and community leaders attended the Thursday night inauguration. Speakers included Manuel Sánchez Biscombe, Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Convention Center District Authority; Terestella González Denton, Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company; and Hon. Aníbal Acevedo-Vilá, the island’s Governor.
During speeches set against a backdrop of musicians, Sanchez Biscombe expressed gratitude to all those involved in the project; González Denton extended a welcome to current and future guests; and Acevedo-Vilá shared a vision of competition with such well-known convention cities as Orlando. His comments concluded with a stunning fireworks display. During the reception that followed, guests toured the center and sampled some of the island’s specialties.
The PRCC features 152,700 sf of exhibit space, a 39,500 sf ballroom, 36,400 sf of meeting space and 28 breakout rooms. The facility is located within a 113-acre urban development project that, upon completion in 2012, will feature hotels, restaurants, a casino, office buildings, commercial space, entertainment and recreational activities. Located in San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital, the site is accessible from the airport and nearby hotels.
Currently, the island offers approximately 6,800 rooms in the metro center surrounding the new facility. A new 500-room headquarters hotel, located adjacent to the convention center, is set to begin construction within the next few weeks. The $175 MIL facility will be managed by Starwood Hotels & Resorts under the Sheraton banner. Space in the district has also been reserved for a second, and possibly third hotel, each of which is expected to add another 500 rooms at a later date.
SMG will manage the PRCC, adding the facility to its roster of 51 convention centers. PRCB will handle sales and marketing through sales representatives in San Juan, Chicago, Miami, New York and Washington, DC.
Though the facility can accommodate groups up to 10,000, PRCB is first targeting smaller events, those with fewer than 3,000 delegates. Viscasillas notes this will allow the city to test its infrastructure and adjust to servicing larger groups. The strategy is working — over 200 events have been booked at the center for dates through 2012 and are expected to bring in more than $190 MIL in direct economic impact, according to Viscasillas.
By 2012, construction on the district, hotel projects and phases II and III of the convention center should be completed, giving Puerto Rico an even bigger house to host its friends.
Reach Ana María Viscasillas, President and CEO of the Puerto Rico Convention and Visitors Bureau (PRCB), (787) 725-2110 firstname.lastname@example.org.