For those recently returning to the Valley of the Sun, this ain't your granddad's Arizona: These days, the valley has exploded to nearly four million people, with almost-new cities such as Mesa and Tempe sprouting up as destinations in their own right. Scottsdale is a mecca for the "big trio" of Activities (golf, spas, and shopping), and downtown Phoenix (a.k.a. Copper Square to the locals) is in the midst of a $2.3-billion makeover that's anchored by new businesses, condos, trendy restaurants and bars, a light-rail system, and the ever-expanding Phoenix Convention Center.
Essential Tool Box
Convention Centers: Phoenix Civic Plaza Convention Center, 476,000 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, Phoenix:
Hotel $167.09 F&B $66.16 Car Rental $92.44
For More Info:
Greater Phoenix CVB
Mesa CVB www.visitmesa.com
Tempe CVB www.tempecvb.com
*Business Travel News 2006 Corporate Travel Index
The Big News
Granted, the grand opening of the Phoenix Convention Center's new wing took place at the end of Aug, but business has been booming for more than a month now at the new, 156,000-sf addition (the debut arrival: Capella University out of Minnesota, with 800 attendees). And groups are already lining up for citywides across the next five years.
"With the new space and our great air availability and fares, we're already seeing people asking for a lot of room-nights and planning a lot of side trips around Arizona," says Douglas MacKenzie, director of communication for the Greater Phoenix CVB. To wit, MacKenzie cites the NRA (45,000 attendees), which has signed on for 2010, and the Elks, expected to bring 10,000-plus for their 2011 convention. And chances are they won't be disappointed. The new West Building is stylish-a stone, glass, and stucco exterior leads into a 140-foot glass atrium entryway-and practical, with 62,000 sf of exhibit space, some 48,000 more in meeting rooms, built-in sound and recording capabilities, and parking for 200 cars.
PHOENIX Phase I of the $600-million Phoenix Convention Center project opened in Aug. The new 156,000-sf hall features a 192-seat amphitheater, 21,000 sf of conference-style meeting space, and a 45,000-sf ballroom with 1,200 integrated folding seats. As the West Building opened, the old North Building was being demolished after 34 years of service, signaling the start of Phase II.
* When it opens in the fall of 2008, the new city-owned Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel will stand 31 stories tall, be one block from the new convention center, and feature 1,000 guest rooms, a 29,000-sf ballroom, and 42 meeting rooms totaling 80,000 sf of space.
* Plans also call for a new W Hotel to be built across from the expanding convention center and a short walk from the US Airways Center. Starwood, which owns the W brand, is targeting early 2009 for the multifaceted, upscale property with 175 guest rooms, residential condos, a 4,000-sf bar, and a 10,000-sf spa and fitness center.
* METRO, Phoenix's light-rail system, remains on track for an expected Dec 2008 opening. The $1.4-billion, 20-mile system will eventually connect downtown with Sky Harbor Int'l Airport.
* Grossman Company Properties (GCP) has acquired (via its affiliate Pointe South Mountain Resort, LLC) the Pointe South Mountain Resort from MONY Life Insurance Company. GCP's renovation plans for the 164-acre resort include refurbishment of the lobby and guest suites, expanding the Oasis water park, a new restaurant, new landscaping, and other amenities to the tune of $50 million.
* The Phoenix Art Museum is expected to wrap up its renovation and expansion by Nov. The $41.2-million makeover includes a new, four-level gallery wing with 30,000 sf of new space, and 47,000 sf of the existing museum redesigned.
* Phoenix's Symphony Hall has completed an $18.5-million renovation. The music center will eventually be connected by an atrium to the revamped Phoenix Convention Center.
* Pointe Hilton Resorts has completed a $16-million renovation project at its Squaw Peak and Tapatio Cliffs properties. Another $20 million in upgrades is planned for this year.
n Sky Harbor Int'l Airport's new $285-million rental car center consolidates 13 rental companies, 5,600 autos, and a 120,000-sf customer service area into one multistory location.
SCOTTSDALE Come Apr 2007 Marriott's Camelback Inn, Resort, Golf Club & Spa will begin a $45-million renovation and expansion, adding new restaurants, Wi-Fi capability, a 20,000-sf ballroom, and upgrading its golf courses. The property will remain open, with a completion date of Mar 2008.
* W Scottsdale Hotel and Residences is on target for a July 2007 opening. The first of two valley-area W hotels will feature 224 guest rooms, three bars, a 3,500-sf ballroom, several meeting rooms, a 2,000-sf terrace, and a 21,000-sf pool/recreation area adjacent to the Bliss Spa.
* InterContinental Hotels Group has purchased Scottsdale's Hampton Inn Old Town and is spending $17 million to transform and reopen the property as the new Hotel Indigo by Dec.
* Morgans Hotel Group has purchased the JAMES Hotel in downtown Scottsdale for $46 million, rebranding it as Mondrian.
* Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants has purchased the 204-room Caleo Resort & Spa, which has just completed a $9-million renovation and opened the Jurlique Spa.
* The 127-room Hyatt Place,opens in downtown Scottsdale this month.
* The Chaparral Suites Resort has recently remodeled all 311 suites.
* Work continues on Scottsdale Waterfront, the $250-million, 11-acre retail, office, and residential development surrounding the Arizona Canal from Camelback and Scottsdale roads to Goldwater Boulevard. The entire project should be completed by early summer of 2007.
* The 248-room Radisson Fort McDowell Resort & Casino is now open, featuring 25,000 sf of meeting space, a fitness center, and two heated pools. Open as well is Fort McDowell Adventure, now offering groups Western-themed venues for special events.
* The Hyatt Regency at Gainey Ranch has opened its $9-million Spa Avania.
* The Hotel Valley Ho has opened Trader Vic's, the new restaurant based on the hotel's original, Polynesian-styled eatery. The landmark restaurant also features a private dining room that accommodates up to 36.
* The Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North recently unveiled The Gallery at Four Seasons, featuring works by Native American and regional artists, accommodating groups for private receptions and wine tasting.
* The Boulders Resort & Golden Door Spa now uses all-organic menus, with many ingredients derived from the property's new on-site gardens.
* The Borgata shopping center in the city's heart has completed a series of renovations and upgrades to its parking, landscaping, and signage.
* Downtown Scottsdale is now enabled for wireless Internet access.
tempe The former 353-room Wyndham Buttes has been reflagged a Marriott.
* The 88,000-sf Tempe Center for the Arts expects to debut in Jan, featuring two theaters (600 and 200 seats) and a 17-acre art park.
* Le Meridien is the chosen flag for a 184-room at Tempe's Hayden Ferry Lakeside, a mixed-use, masterplanned community currently in development.
Greater phoenix Cardinals Stadium has opened in Glendale, 20 miles from downtown Phoenix, with both a retractable roof and grass playing surface, and seating for 63,000.
* The Wigwam Golf Resort & Spa has opened the Red Door Spa, with 26,000 sf of indoor/outdoor treatment area.
* The conversion of the former La Posada Resort in Paradise Valley into the Andalusian-styled Montelucia - A Solis Resort & Spa is expected to be complete by this fall. The new $230-million property will offer 292 guest rooms, including 34 luxury villas, plus 25,000 sf of meeting space (70,000 sf outdoors), six pools, and a 31,000-sf health spa.
* Name dropping: America West Arena (home of the NBA's Phoenix Suns), following a $67-million makeover, is now the US Airways Center; the Arizona Diamondbacks' Bank One Ballpark is now Chase Field.
* Course corrections: Phoenix-area golf courses wrapping up upgrades and renovations include the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa's Adobe course ($4 million), the Phoenician's 27-hole combo (Desert, Oasis, and Canyon) course ($1 million), and the Wigwam Golf Resort & Spa's three 18-hole courses (Red, Blue, and Gold) at $5 million.
Groups Should Consider
these recommendations from Successful Meetings' Home Team* experts. Top choices include the 654-room Phoenician, the 950-room JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, the 732-room Westin Kierland Resort and Spa, the 739-room Arizona Biltmore, A Waldorf=Astoria Collection, the 500-room Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa, the 281-room Pointe South Mountain Resort & Spa, the 640-room Ritz-Carlton, Phoenix and the 117-room Royal Palms, the 490-room Hyatt Regency at Gainey Ranch, the 204-room Caleo Spa and Resort, and the 651-room Fairmont Princess.
*Home Team contributors who informed this section include Jack Chiasson; Vicki Juntti, CMP; Caroline Kamper; Annette M. Kovalcik, CMP; Jessica Murphy; and Cara Tracy, CMP, CMM. Contact them at [email protected]
The Pursuit of Pampering
To say that spas are ubiquitous in the Valley of the Sun
would be, well, true-and in the process, a very good thing for groups. What were just a decade ago considered a luxury-massages, wraps, facials, pedicures, and mud packs-are now treated almost as necessities and are all the rage as post-meeting relaxation for attendees, VIP clients, and top performers. And while the list of treatments and products continues to grow and diversify, the role of the spas is shifting from an indulgent option to a direct part of group programs themselves.
"The trend seems to be moving towards 'spa entertaining,' where corporate groups want to entertain their guests and attendees in a unique way," says Simon Marxer, spa director at the Boulders Resort & Golden Door Spa. "Instead of just taking them out to a restaurant they'll take them out to the spa, and do mini-treatments or a full spa experience in addition to food and beverage." Another trend, says Marxer, is customizing the spa experience to fit whatever the client needs. "It could be teambuilding-a hike or climb-and then a returning to spa afterward for a treatment," he says.
Exotic spa treatments, like the Phoenician's signature myoxy caviar facial ("the best natural alternative to Botox") are still the order du jour; the valley's hottest trend, though, is incorporating Arizona itself-native herbs, minerals, fruits, plants and vegetables-into spa environments. "We want to be in touch with the indigenous properties of the area, and certainly endeavor to include them as part of the whole experience, not just the treatments," says Marxer. To that end, the Boulders has created its own on-site gardens (part of its all-organic move) where produce, herbs, and spices will turn up on menus and in treatments. The Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch's new Avania Spa offers a Desert Essence Wrap, while Willow Stream-The Spa at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess-serves up home-brewed teas using citrus, elderberries, and prickly pear cactus.-MB
Our subscribers gave Pinnacle Awards to the following:
Camelback Inn, a JW Marriott Resort & Spa
Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch
Pointe South Mountain Resort
Crowne Plaza San Marcos Resort
Westin Kierland Resort & Spa
Scottsdale Resort & Conference Center
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10 Great Places for group meals in Phoenix / Scottsdale
The restaurants below have group facilities and were selected from the Zagat Survey of the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. The order was determined by Zagat's food and service ratings of 21 and above and a price of up to $65 per person (without alcohol):
NAME, Location, Type of Food
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, Surf & Turf
Vincent Guerihault on Camelback Phoenix French
Mastro's Steakhouse, Scottsdale, Steakhouse
Michael's at the Citadel, Scottsdale, American
Roaring Fork, Scottsdale, Southwestern
Tarbell's, Phoenix, American
For more information on these and other restaurants in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area, please click on www.zagat.com
What's In a Name
Few destinations have mastered the art of establishing signature properties to the extent of Phoenix and Scottsdale. Granted, the corporate names-Hyatt, Westin, Marriott, Hilton, Fairmont-are usually duly noted somewhere in a typically lengthy moniker. Ask attendees where they stayed, though, and the response is often short and memorably sweet: the Princess, the Biltmore, the Phoenician, the Boulders, the Buttes, Gainey Ranch. In sum, rather than being identified by a brand, these signature properties have themselves managed to create a unique brand for the destination.
"There are a lot of nice properties out here, folks who've been around here a long time, with their own personality and character, and everyone seems to know about them," says Clark Albright, director of sales and marketing at Camelback Inn, a JW Marriott Resort & Spa. "Camelback has long had a reputation within the company, but even more so with its customers. It takes time and consistent service execution to get that elite recognition, and that reputation is well earned."
Indeed, places such as Camelback, the Biltmore, the Royal Palms, and others have survived successfully for decades, building their reputations and customer cachet on service and quality. What sets them apart are attention to detail-table linens, oak wainscoting in the lobby, a fabled golf hole, an Art Deco-styled swimming pool-and the history of the properties. "It's tough to argue with 70 years of experience," says Albright, who spent three months in residence at Camelback after he transferred to Arizona late last year. "There's a special energy here," he says. "Camelback was around a long time before it was a Marriott. We have generations of repeat customers, and we're smart in maintaining the heritage and legacy of the building."
The legacy aspect even extends to some of the area's new properties. The buzz about the new Hotel Valley Ho, for example, centers on key aspects of its former glory days-a mid-century Modern design and a reputation as a chic desert hideaway (with a groovy Polynesian restaurant) for Hollywood's Golden Age celebs. In that sense, signature resorts never go out of style. -MB