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Price Waterhouse U. sets room for future

Price Waterhouse promises its new $52-million global training center will be on the cutting edge:

Motion-sensitive cameras will beam to students around the world a full video projection of an instructor strolling around the classroom. Tables with "smart sound" sensors will pick up questions from students, but not the sound of their papers shuffling.

And given the pace of technology, not even Price Waterhouse planners know all the devices that will be used when the complex at Hillsborough Avenue and the Veterans Expressway opens by January.

"We have some great ideas now, and we'll have tons more two years from now," said Sandra Kinsey, managing director in charge of the professional development center.

With more than 300 trainees and plenty of food and drink on hand, the accounting/consulting services giant Friday held groundbreaking ceremonies at the 23-acre site, just west of Tampa International Airport. The facility will include a 360-unit hotel and recreational facilities in addition to classrooms and training areas.

About 200 full-time instructors will be hired, along with 400 part-time instructors and support personnel. About 100 Price employees currently involved in the training program will be transferred from leased offices on W Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

The center will cater to as many as 750 trainees on-site at one time with sessions lasting from 12 to 13 weeks each.

Kinsey said the project was spurred by a space crunch. Since Price Waterhouse began using Tampa as a base 10 years ago, the training program has mushroomed. As many as 3,000 people are expected to attend classes in the next year. The crunch will only be exacerbated after Price Waterhouse completes its merger with Coopers & Lybrand.

Heavy demand has forced the company to rely on three locations plus rental space at area hotels. Associates who are in training have been staying at 170 apartments throughout Tampa that Price Waterhouse has under long-term leases.

A single campus for training and lodging "will certainly be an inducement to learning," Kinsey said. "We'll all be in one common environment."

Trainees will feel free to head back to their hotel suite for a break or a quick snack and walk back to the center later to hear a recorded lecture or other training exercises.

Also encouraging the visitors to stay put will be on-site amenities such as a coin laundry, cafe, lounge, grocery, picnic area, gym, swimming pool, and volleyball, basketball and tennis courts.