by Leo Jakobson | December 19, 2016

Amelia Island/Ponte Vedra Beach

Amelia Island sunset

In nearby Amelia Island, the CVB has a new Flights for Sites program that will reimburse planners looking to book 150 room nights and at least $7,500 in food and beverage, up to $400 for airfare.

After wrapping up a yearlong, $25 million renovation project encompassing its 511 guest rooms, pools, exterior, and spa, the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa in Ponte Vedra Beach embarked on the creation of a VIP wing with 31 butler-serviced rooms. The main renovation included an overhaul of the Cabana Club and the installation of a SurfStream wave simulator for onsite surfing -- which Dan McCarron, the property's director of sales and marketing, said can be adjusted to suit all skill levels -- as well as the addition of two couples treatment rooms to the Sawgrass Spa. The resort has more than 61,000 square feet of meeting and event space, including the 16,000-square-foot Champions Ballroom.

The 249-room, AAA Five Diamond Ponte Vedra Inn & Club's Conference Center is undergoing a major renovation this fall. It has 25,000 square feet of meeting space and a 30,000-square-foot spa, as well as 15 Har-Tru hydro tennis courts and two well-respected golf courses, the Ocean Course and the Lagoon Course.

Northeastern Florida
In Jacksonville, EverBank Field, home of the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars, is undergoing $90 million worth of renovations and additions. A 5,500-seat concert and event amphitheater is being built at the south end of the stadium, as is a new indoor practice facility, a covered, climate-controlled, multipurpose flex field at the south end of the stadium that will be able to host private events when it opens next year. In addition, the Club sections have been completely redesigned, replacing seats with large decks and other open spaces suitable for private events.

The Lexington Hotel & Conference Center on the St. John's River (formerly the Wyndham) is renovating its 323 guest rooms, 35,000 square feet of meeting space, pool, landscaping, and two restaurants, as well as upgrading its high-speed Internet system. Work is scheduled to wrap up by the end of this year.

The Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront, Omni Jacksonville, DoubleTree by Hilton Jacksonville Riverfront, Embassy Suites Jacksonville-Baymeadows, and Courtyard Oceanfront in Jacksonville Beach, have all completed multimillion-dollar renovations recently, and the Sheraton Jacksonville will wrap one up by the end of the year.

Several unusual venues have or will arrive this year. Velocity Air Sports' 40,000-square-foot entertainment facility has opened with a 25,000-square-foot, indoor trampoline field, Olympic-size foam pits, ninja warrior obstacle course, dodgeball stadium, and trapeze. The Barge Jax is a floating venue that will bring 6,000 square feet of outdoor event space to downtown Jacksonville.

Located in the hip area of downtown Jacksonville, the new Unity Plaza outdoor event venue includes an amphitheater, indoor community center, three restaurants, and an outdoor beer garden.

Topgolf is opening a 65,000-square-foot, three-level driving range with 34 booths that can each take up to 10 people. Microchip-embedded balls keep score. A restaurant and three bars will be available.

St. Augustine
Florida's Historic Coast is home to the nation's oldest city, St. Augustine, which was founded in 1565. The Holiday Isle Oceanfront Resort will reflag as the Guy Harvey Outpost St. Augustine in early 2017, following a renovation. The 153-room property will offer beach and pool views, and more than 4,000 square feet of flexible meeting space.

The 206-room Courtyard Marriott St. Augustine Beach opened with 5,800 square feet of meeting space, including the 4,800-square-foot Flagler Ballroom, which can take up to 490 people for a reception, and the 1,000-square-foot Ponce de Leon room.

Hilton is building the 180-suite Embassy Suites St. Augustine -- Oceanfront on the site of the former St. Augustine Beach resort. The beachfront property will have 5,500 square feet of meeting space. It is set to open in late 2017.

A new venue has opened in an historic 1928 bank building in the heart of old downtown St. Augustine. The Treasury on the Plaza can host up to 450 for receptions in its opulent Grande Ballroom. There are six other spaces, including the Vault Bar, through the bank's massive circular vault door.