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Bigger, Better--and Open

October 20, 1994|EDMUND NEWTON

It has already hosted a coin and stamp expo, a car show and a dry-cleaning exhibit.

But Long Beach's expanded and beautified convention center, open for business for the past 2 1/2 months, officially opens today when a dozen dignitaries are scheduled to cut a ribbon at the main entrance on Pine Avenue.

The center now has three times as much exhibit space, 224,000 square feet, as it did two years ago when the $111-million project got under way. There are 36 meeting rooms, three huge exhibit halls and parking space for 5,000 cars, to say nothing of the city's largest ballroom, the 20,456-square-foot Grand Ballroom overlooking the Long Beach shoreline.

But it is the aesthetics of the place, more than the numbers, that impress, say those who have wandered through. The convention center features a 563-foot glass-and-steel atrium, psychedelic wave-patterned carpeting, and brass and frosted-glass touches.

"It's absolutely gorgeous," says general manager David Gordon.

The center's beauty and central location are beginning to translate into business for recession-bitten Long Beach. Though bookings are slow for this year, officials say, next year looks a lot brighter, with 47 commitments on the books.

" '95 is gangbusters," says Charlie Whitney, vice president for sales at the Long Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"We're really excited," says Linda Howell, president of the bureau. "We think it's going to make a real difference."

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