New Charlotte Harbor Event & Conference Center Opens on Florida's Gulf Coast

A new 45,230-square-foot conference center has opened in downtown Punta Gorda, Fla., south of Tampa and north of Naples, the Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau recently announced. Called the Charlotte Harbor Event & Conference Center, the $19.7 million facility held its grand opening on Jan. 10 and is considered a sign of rapid tourism growth on Florida's Gulf Coast, which locals say has long been overlooked as a meetings destination.

"Charlotte Harbor has emerged from 'best kept secret' status," Becky Bovell, director of the Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau, said in a statement. "The demand for hotel rooms and the accompanying services was outpacing development. Now, thanks to the resilience and dedication that has fast-tracked projects, we are poised to provide the best of both worlds—an uncrowded, unspoiled natural environment with new hotel rooms, restaurants and store-fronts while honoring Punta Gorda's future by preserving its past eclectic architectural charm."

The Charlotte Harbor Event & Conference Center features space for 112 exhibit booths or up to 1,500 people inside a 19,800-square-foot exhibit hall, plus an additional 388 people inside two additional 1,785-square-foot meeting rooms.

To accommodate meetings at the new conference center, the Charlotte Harbor CVB points out that the area added 300 hotel rooms in 2008—and will add another 300 in 2009—and has recently welcomed new air service into Charlotte County Airport through Direct Air and Allegiant Air.