by Leo Jakobson | December 01, 2012
The Sporting Scene
Miami isn’t the only southern Florida city with a new ballpark. The Boston Red Sox opened a new spring training facility in Fort Myers this year. The 11,000-seat JetBlue Park at Fenway South replicates a number of the real Fenway Park’s features, notably the 37-foot Green Monster in left field. The complex has six fields and houses the team’s major and minor league operations. 

As part of the $200-million renovation begun after its purchase in June by the Trump Hotel Collection, The Doral Golf Resort & Spa hired golf course architect Gil Hanse to work with the PGA Tour on a complete rebuild of the legendary Blue Monster golf course, home of the PGA Tour’s WGC – Cadillac Championships, as well as the Doral’s other four links. The Champions Pavilion and the driving range have more than doubled in size.

The Turnberry Isle Miami has partnered with Cañas Tennis on a new corporate tennis program for groups of four to 16. The packages include an organized tennis round robin tournament, by itself or following one-hour lessons by either Cañas Tennis Professionals or by Guillermo Cañas, the ATP’s former world-number-eight ranked player. The Turnberry Isle Miami has 12 courts, as well as 40,000 square feet of meeting space. It unveiled a $2 million spa renovation and joined the Autograph Collection this spring.
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Southern Florida is booming
Florida has been an early leader in environmentally friendly construction, thanks to a highly regarded statewide green building program. Now two of the largest meetings and events venues in the state have increased its lead.

In March, Miami's newly built Marlins Park opened as the most sustainable baseball stadium in the country, with a record 40 Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) points achieveing LEED Gold certification.

Then in August, four years' work and a $3.8-million investment paid off for the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center, which won Florida's first LEED Gold certification in the existing building category.

The improvements to the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center included replacing the center's plumbing, lighting, and air conditioning systems, a major upgrade to the energy management system, and a complete overhaul of the 17-acre site's landscaping, says Nicki Grossman, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"There are associations and organizations that want to do business with green facilities," Grossman says, pointing to medical and pharmaceutical, construction, and environmental industry groups in particular. "I think we can get another 500,000 room nights because of the LEED certification. The Urban League is coming in 2015, and one of the things its president, Marc Morial, was interested in [during the sales process] was how we took care of the local community. He was very interested in LEED."

As a sales tool, LEED is more of a tie-breaker than deciding factor these days, Grossman says. "We are ahead of the mob, but they will come as more convention centers become environmentally friendly," she predicts. "If a convention center does not have environmental certification of some sort, I believe it will be a deal breaker in three to five years."

In the meantime, the center has cut its 10 million gallon water use in half with changes like low-flow plumbing, drip irrigation, and indigenous trees. Electricity use is also down 50 percent, and is now purchased from wind energy suppliers.

"Our environmental savings are close to $1 million a year," Grossman says. "We now recycle 57 percent of our waste stream. There's not much cost savings, but it's big for the community."

Next up on the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center's agenda, Grossman says, is an expansion and, hopefully, an attached hotel. "The only business we've lost in the last four years is because of size [currently 610,000 square feet] and the lack of a hotel," she says. "If we add 150,000 to 200,000 square feet it will make us a lot more comfortable, without being in competition with the one-million-square-foot-plus convention centers." Funding is already in place.

Play Ball!
Opened in March, Marlins Park is the first retractable-roof building in the world to receive LEED Gold certification. On the site of the former Orange Bowl, the 37,000-seat Marlins Stadium has a wide variety of green building attributes, such as low-flow plumbing, an energy efficient design, a CFC-free air conditioning system, a comprehensive recycling plan, and the use of recycled and regionally sourced building materials.

But beyond the LEED Gold rating, the stadium was designed with special events in mind, and can accommodate a wide range of group sizes and event types, says Chelsea Hirschhorn, the Marlins' director of special events.

"We can host a group of 20 executives in our press conference room for a PowerPoint and then dinner in our Diamond Club, or we can do 900 people on the field," Hirschhorn says. "We can do a 5,000-person general session in the seats and then have breakouts in rooms in the tunnel. We can even do trade shows for up to about 600 exhibitors - in the off-season only because of the grass - that would entail covering the entire field and closing the roof. We have more than 150,000 square feet on the field."

The Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau (GMCVB) recently used the stadium for its 700-person annual meeting, attended by local partners and officials, national and international meeting planners, and the press. "We always try to use the hottest and newest space in Miami-Dade county," says Ali Bibeau, the GMCVB's director of partnership development.

"We took advantage of the amenities they have to really make it a baseball themed event," Bibeau says. "Our invitation mentioned 'celebrating a year of home runs.' We used two seating sections in the stadium and our stage was built next to the field [next to the third base line] - folks felt they were watching a game. They were positioned right in front of the Jumbotron, so we used that as our main video screen. We did a seventh-inning stretch, and the energy team and [team mascot] Billy the Marlin came out and entertained folks."

Before the presentation, attendees passed a mini business expo on the promenade on the way to their seats. Afterwards they made their way to the Skyline Terrace, Bibeau says. "We had a two-hour reception with passed appetizers and an open bar with live music and a backdrop of the city coming to light as the sun went down."

Dinner Between the Bases, with tables on the dirt track, is popular with incentive groups, as is Dinner in the Dugout, which can accomodate up to 50 or 60, Hirschhorn says. "It's a trestle table where players actually sit during the game. You have cocktails on the warning track before dinner. It's great for board meetings or entertaining high-end clients - people who've done it all and are hard to 'wow.'"