Phoenix / Scottsdale - 2006-03-09(2)

Successful Meetings March 2006: After two years of cranes and hard hats, the Phoenix Convention Center expansion will become a reality this summer. The $600-million expansion will nearly triple the center in size, offering approximately 900,000 square feet of rentable space and more than two million square feet total. New space comprises 158,000 total square feet (about 65,000 of it for exhibitions) with a 46,000-square-foot ballroom and 30 meeting rooms. The design should please groups, with the two upper levels devoted to bells-and-whistles-style conference space, including a high-tech amphitheater. An atrium connects the new building to symphony hall, which has just wrapped up its own $18.5-million renovation, coinciding with the convention center work.

Essential Tool Box

Convention Centers: Phoenix Civic Plaza Convention Center, currently 221,000 sf of dedicated exhibit space, with 49 meeting rooms accommodating 25,000 theater-style. Arizona Exposition and State Fair, 150,000 sf of dedicated meeting space, grandstand accommodates 5,000. Mesa Convention Center, 19,000 sf of dedicated meeting space and 19,000 sf of flexible meeting space.
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Daily Business Costs*: Hotel: $167.09 F&B $66.16 Car Rental $92.44
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*Business Travel News 2005 Corporate Travel Index

The Big News
Long a favorite for its balmy climate and easy access to the Southwest’s spectacular natural beauty, Phoenix continues its transformation into a big-league meetings destination. Phase I of the $600-million Phoenix Civic Plaza Convention Center expansion and renovation is on target (and booked) for a May 28 debut, much to the delight of the city’s hospitality officials.

“It opens everything up,” says James Jessie, director of sales for the Greater Phoenix CVB. “We were starting to lose business groups who were outgrowing our existing convention center space,” he says. “Now we can answer those needs and open ourselves up to a much larger share of the convention market.”

Moreover, the center’s expansion comes complemented by a slew of new hotel rooms, retail space, a light-rail system, residential condos, and corporate and educational campuses, all part of downtown’s ongoing rejuvenation project. “Success breeds success, and we’ve definitely experienced that,” says Phoenix City Councilman Tom Simplot, who cites upcoming relocations to downtown by Arizona State University and the University of Arizona, plus the new Translational Genomics Research Institute, as examples of the neighborhood’s resurgence.

Meanwhile, in Scottsdale, Phase I of the $250-million, 1.1-million-sf Scottsdale Waterfront project, an 11-acre residential, retail, and office development, was recently completed; it includes retail stores, office buildings, and one eight-story and two 13-story residential buildings. Borders, P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Urban Outfitters, and Sur la Table have recently opened, and restaurants Sauce and Pink Taco are scheduled to open this Apr. The development also will be home to the Fiesta Bowl headquarters and museum. When completed in 2007, the Scottsdale Waterfront will feature ample public open space, an outdoor amphitheater, public art, and recreation paths along the canal.

What’s New: Phoenix
Work is under way on downtown’s new Sheraton, a 1,000-room meetings venue set one block from the convention center. The new hotel, with a late 2008 opening date, will feature a 29,000-sf ballroom and 42 meeting rooms.
* A new W Hotel is planned for downtown, within walking distance of the convention center and the US Airways Center. The 39-story, multifaceted property (190 guest rooms, 170 condo units, 10,000-sf spa and fitness center) is scheduled for an early 2008 opening.
* Sky Harbor Int’l Airport unveiled its new $285-million rental car center in Jan. The multistory complex consolidates 13 rental companies, 5,600 autos, and a 120,000-sf customer service area into one location.
* Work continues on METRO, Phoenix’s $1.4-billion, 20-mile light-rail system, which is expected to open in Dec 2008, connecting downtown with Sky Harbor Int’l Airport.
* Two major group venues have received new monikers. Bank One Ballpark, home of baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks, is now Chase Field, while America West Arena (the NBA’s Phoenix Suns’ base), fresh from a $67-million redo, switched its name to to the US Airways Center.
* The Wigwam Golf Resort and Spa is set to open its new 26,000-sf Golden Door Spa this month.
* The Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa has completed a $4-million facelift of its Adobe golf course; the property, which is now part of Hilton Hotels & Resorts, has been flagged as part of the new Waldorf=Astoria collection.
* Pointe Hilton Resorts recently finished $16 million in renovations at its Squaw Peak and Tapatio Cliffs properties, with another $20 million in upgrades planned for this year.
* The 106-room Clarendon Hotel + Suites has opened a fitness center and is wrapping up a series of guest room renovations this spring.
Scottsdale The African American Multicultural Museum opened in Nov. with exhibits that include African masks, painted Egyptian papyrus, drums, and a well-recognized painting from the Cosby Show. The venue has the capacity for up to 100.
* The W Scottsdale Hotel and Residences has broken ground; when completed, it will feature 224 guest rooms, a spa, restaurant, two bars, and 18 luxury W residences. The ground floor will also contain a 3,500-sf ballroom.
* The original 194-room Hotel Valley Ho re-opened in Dec after undergoing an $80-million rehabilitation and expansion. The new resort will feature a Trader Vic’s, set to open in May.
* Next month, the 200-room James Scottsdale will become part of the Morgans Hotel Group.

these recommendations from the Successful Meetings Home Team experts. Top hotel choices include the 732-room Westin Kierland Resort, the 404-room Scottsdale Plaza Resort, the 117-room Royal Palms, the 500-room Sheraton Wild Horse Pass, the 651-room Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, the 739-room Arizona Biltmore, the 490-room Hyatt Regency at Gainey Ranch, the 654-room Phoenician, and the 739-room Four Seasons at Troon North. Recommended as a venue: A Different Pointe of View at the 585-room Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs.

Contributors who informed this section include Home Team members Terry Blumenstein, CMM; Heidi C. Borter, CMP; Sherri Cook, CMP, CMM; Audrey Featherman, CMP; Sandi Jones; Vicki Juntti, CMP; Neal Schwartz. Contact them at

Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’
After 35 years as an Old West-themed party venue north of Phoenix, Rawhide has headed south of town for new digs, and adds a Native American twist to its events at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa, just off I-10. The sprawling resort complex, already home to a 500-room hotel, equestrian center, spa, and two golf courses, now offers groups the option for theme parties in an 1880s frontier town complete with gunfights, stagecoach rides, and, of course, the requisite saloon.—Marc Boisclair

Onsite: Desert Ridge
Getting In On the Ground Floor
I picked up a glass of champagne from the tray extended to me by a white-gloved waiter. Several more waiters approached, proffering an array of hors d’oeuvres, as a piano tinkled gently in the corner. I was standing in the 33,000-sf Grand Canyon ballroom of the 950-room JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa. Oh, and I was the only guest.
Marcy Edwards, director of public relations, had met me in the lobby. “Let’s take a look in here,” she suggested, opening the door to the ballroom and ushering me into a waiting golf cart. Crossing the room in the cart took about 15 seconds, but it was enough to grasp both the size of the room and the quality of its excellent acoustics. Now, as waiters stood by, we talked about the ballroom (the largest in Arizona), the resort (one of the largest in Arizona), the view of the Camelback Mountains (amazing), and what had been here before. “Nothing,” said Edwards. “This used to be where people came when they wanted to be alone.”

Not anymore: In true Marriott fashion, a fully realized destination resort stands where there used to be only brush and jackrabbits. My view from the top floor looked out onto a vista of pools and function space, enlivened by a lazy river, from which arose the screams and squawks of youngsters in inner tubes. To my left was approximately 200,000 sf of purpose-built meeting space; to my right, the 20,000-sf Revive Spa, which featured a private quiet pool and a spa cafe.

At night, the torches of Roy’s Hawaiian beckoned, but so did the quiet of Ristorante Tuscany, where diners enjoy hearty yet delicately flavored Italian fare. (There are 10 restaurants in all). Earlier, the Cloud Club, Marriott’s innovative concierge level, was jumping with people of all ages, sampling amuse-bouches sent up by the chefs and chattering away in nooks and crannies. So far, the Cloud Club can only be found at Desert Ridge, but who knows? Sometimes, things just catch on. —Terri Hardin

Great Places for Group Meals in Greater Phoenix
The restaurants below have group facilities and were selected from the Zagat Survey of the Greater Phoenix area. The list was determined by Zagat's food and services of 23 and above and a price of up to $65 per person (without alcohol).
Sea Saw Scottsdale Japanese
Marquesa Scottsdale Mediterranean
T. Cook’s Phoenix Mediterranean
Drinkwater’s City Hall Steakhouse Scottsdale Steakhouse
Eddie V’s Edgewater Grille Scottsdale Steakhouse
Vincent Guerithault on Camelback Phoenix French
Roaring Fork Scottsdale American
Tarbell’s Phoenix American
elements Paradise Valley American
Michael’s at the Citadel Scottsdale American
For more information on these and other restaurants in the Greater Phoenix area, please click on

Readers Recommend
Our subscribers gave Pinnacle Awards to the following:

Greater Phoenix CVB
Scottsdale CVB
Camelback Inn, A JW Marriott Resort & Spa
Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort
Arizona Golf Resort
Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
Four Seasons Resort at Troon North
Hilton Scottsdale Resort & Villas
Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch
The Phoenician
Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak
Pointe South Mountain Resort
Scottsdale Plaza Resort
Westin Kierland Resort & Spa
Scottsdale Resort and Conference Center

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