Phoenix Celebrates Opening of New Convention Center, Light Rail System

After several years of planning and construction, Phoenix's new light-rail system and expanded convention center have opened for business, the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau announced this month. Crews officially finished the long-awaited projects, which together cost the city approximately $2 billion, in time for a public celebration by city leaders and residents on Dec. 27 that included free food and live music, as well as complimentary rides on the light rail and free tours of the convention center.

"As of today, after nearly five years of planning and building and waiting, we can finally say that Phoenix's capabilities as a convention destination have never been better," Greater Phoenix CVB Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Kevin Kamenzind said in a statement. "This beautiful new convention center allows Phoenix to attract large conventions our previous facility simply could not accommodate, and light rail opens up a new world of dining and entertainment possibilities for attendees of those conventions."

Phoenix's new, $1.4 billion METRO Light Rail includes 28 stations along 20 miles of track that connects Phoenix to neighboring cities Tempe and Mesa via trains that operate at 10-minute intervals for 20 hours a day, seven days a week.

The new, $600 million Phoenix Convention Center, meanwhile, features nearly 900,000 square feet of exhibitions and meeting space—much of it green, thanks to the addition of solar panels and a water-harvesting garden.

In its first year alone, the expanded Phoenix Convention Center will host nearly 70 groups and approximately 288,000 meeting attendees. By 2014, the facility is expected to host 375,000 attendees annually to the tune of $550 million in direct visitor spending.

Concluded Kamenzind, "Downtown Phoenix has really undergone a metamorphosis. What hasn't changed is that our convention facilities still sit five miles from one of the country's biggest and most accessible airports, and the city basks in sunshine more than 300 days a year. Phoenix has always been an attractive meeting destination, but it's evolving toward irresistibility."