The long-standing allure of the Southwest continues to cast a spell over meeting planners and attendees. In a region where growth seemingly has no bounds, cities are reveling in the development, and redevelopment, of the world-class facilities on which they've staked their reputations: impressive resorts, scenic golf courses, and luxurious spas.
The recent expansion of convention centers and services offered by centers in Arizona, New Mexico, Las Vegas, and the Southern California desert is yet another reason to round up attendees for a magical Southwest meeting experience.
In the “Land of Enchantment,” otherwise known as New Mexico, Albuquerque is celebrating its tricentennial throughout 2006. The first phase of a $6 million renovation is under way at the city's 600,000-square-foot convention center. It will add fiber-optic cabling and free wireless Internet “hot zones.”
Santa Fe began construction of a new $55 million civic center in February, with completion expected in fall 2007. Total size will increase from 45,000 square feet to more than 72,000 square feet.
In January, the official reopening of the Palm Springs Convention Center marked the end of a $34 million renovation and expansion for the virtually all-new 261,000-square-foot facility. The center now offers a 20,000-square-foot ballroom, 19 breakout rooms, and a dramatic new lobby with panoramic mountain views. There are 2,700 hotel rooms within walking distance of the center, including the adjoining 410-room Wyndham Hotel, with 30,000 square feet of meeting space, and the new $95 million Spa Resort Casino, with 228 rooms.
A $600 million, multiphase expansion project is elevating the Phoenix Convention Center, formerly Phoenix Civic Plaza, into one of the 20 largest convention facilities in North America. The center will triple in size to more than 900,000 square feet by 2009. As phase one nears completion with 156,000 square feet of new meeting space debuting in July, two hotels have broken ground within a block of the center. The 1,000-room Sheraton Downtown Phoenix and the 175-room W Phoenix Hotel, both scheduled to open in 2008, combined with the convention center expansion and a light-rail project under construction, collectively represent an investment of more than $1 billion in the city's revitalized core.
In Las Vegas, new additions to the neon skyline include South Coast Hotel and Casino, Red Rock Resort and Spa, Wynn Las Vegas, and for small meetings, the Platinum Hotel and Spa.
JW MARRIOTT DESERT RIDGE RESORT & SPA in Phoenix will debut a 25,000-square-foot ballroom and a 15,000-square-foot event lawn in 2007. The 869-room resort offers 200,000 square feet of meeting and event space, including three ballrooms, 11 meeting rooms, and two boardrooms.
In 2005, SCOTTSDALE PLAZA RESORT completed a two-year, $3.5 million renovation project encompassing guest rooms and meeting space. More than 130 suites were gutted and rebuilt while additional rooms, suites, and villas received comprehensive improvements. The resort's 30,000 square feet of meeting space features new décor and lighting. High-speed Internet connections were installed in all guest rooms and throughout the central areas of the conference center.
After a $70 million renovation and expansion, Scottsdale's HOTEL VALLEY HO reopened in December with 194 guest rooms, two restaurants, a spa, and 10,000 square feet of meeting space.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. has begun construction of its first W Hotel in Arizona. The W SCOTTSDALE HOTEL will open in 2007 with 224 guest rooms, three meeting rooms, and a 3,500-square-foot ballroom.
RADISSON FORT MCDOWELL RESORT & CASINO opened in December on the Yavapai Reservation adjacent to Scottsdale with 248 guest rooms and 25,000 square feet of meeting space.
Solis Hotels and Resorts is investing $185 million in the former La Posada Resort in Paradise Valley, between Phoenix and Scottsdale. MONTELUCIA will open in summer 2007 with 157 casitas, suites, and villas; a 30,000-square-foot spa; and two ballrooms and nine meeting rooms.
In 2005, the TEMPE MISSION PALMS HOTEL completed a $2.5 million makeover of 30,000 square feet of meeting space and enhancements to courtyards used for breakouts and special events.
MONDRIAN, the former James Hotel Scottsdale, adjacent to the Scottsdale Civic Center, offers 200 guest rooms and 10,000 square feet of meeting space.
In Tempe, the 353-room THE BUTTES, A MARRIOTT RESORT is finishing a guest-room renovation, slated to be done this fall.
The 167-room OMNI TUCSON NATIONAL GOLF RESORT & SPA has opened a second 18-hole championship course designed by 2006 Ryder Cup Captain Tom Lehman.
On the former site of the Marquis Resort in downtown Palm Springs, the HOTEL ZOSO opened in December with 163 contemporary-style guest rooms, 20,000 square feet of meeting space, and a 22,000-square-foot exhibit area.
The PLATINUM HOTEL AND SPA opens this month with 255 suites offering views of the Las Vegas Strip and the mountains, a fitness center, spa, and poolside restaurant. Meeting and event facilities at the nongaming condo hotel include a 12-seat boardroom, four conference rooms each seating up to 60 attendees, 4,000 square feet of suite space for breakouts, and a 360-degree-view rooftop terrace for groups of up to 250.
Phase one of the $925 million RED ROCK RESORT & SPA opened in April in Las Vegas with 415 guest rooms, a 94,000-square-foot conference center, nine restaurants, a casino, and a 35,000-square-foot spa.
Also in Las Vegas, SOUTH COAST HOTEL & CASINO opened in January with 1,350 guest rooms; a spa; and 150,000 square feet of banquet, exhibit, and meeting space, including 17 conference rooms.
WYNN LAS VEGAS opened in 2005 with 2,700 rooms and suites; a golf course; spa; casino; and 200,000 square feet of meeting space in two ballrooms, two boardrooms, and 18 meeting rooms.
In 2005 in Las Vegas, the 2,548-room all-suite RIO hotel unveiled 60,000 square feet of new meeting space.
The new $289 million Augustus Tower at CAESARS PALACE in Vegas offers 949 guest rooms, a spa, and 86,000 square feet of meeting space, bringing total hotel meeting space to 240,000 square feet.
New treatments at Albuquerque's SANDIA RESORT & CASINO's 12,000-square-foot spa incorporate desert plant life in a menu of services, including a body wrap using local clay and indigenous plants such as juniper and green reeds.
Ask the CVB
GREATER PHOENIX CVB
(877) CALLPHX; www.visitphoenix.org
Total Hotel Tax: 12.07%
(480) 421-1004, (800) 782-1117
Total Hotel Tax: 11.92%
(800) 283-6734; www.tempecvb.com
Total Hotel Tax: 12.07%
METROPOLITAN TUCSON CVB
(520) 624-1817, (800) 638-8350
Total Hotel Tax: 11.5% to 13.5%, depending on location
PALM SPRINGS DESERT RESORTS CVB
(760) 770-9000, (800) 967-3767
Total Hotel Tax: 9% to 12.5%, depending on location
LAS VEGAS CONV. & VISITORS AUTHORITY
(702) 892-0711, (877) VISITLV
www.lvcva.com; Total Hotel Tax: 9%
(505) 842-9918, (800) 733-9918
Total Hotel Tax: 12.75%
SANTA FE CVB
(800) 777-2489; www.santafe.org
Total Hotel Tax: 14.76%
Nearly all of Tucson's top resorts are located a considerable distance from the airport. Be sure to factor the transportation charge for hotel vans or a private shuttle service into your budget and also to build sufficient travel time into the itinerary.
Golfing in Santa Fe gives you more bang for your buck. Not only does the area offer spectacular courses for a fraction of what it costs to play at comparable courses across the nation, but the region's high altitude means your ball will fly about 20 percent further.
Even though they are only 100 miles apart, Phoenix/Scottsdale and Tucson aren't as similar as you might think. Tucson offers loads of historic southwestern character, is closer to the mountains, and is usually cooler. The Phoenix metro area has a big-city vibe with shopping, chic restaurants, and lots of choices for excursions.
The desert resorts in and around Palm Springs offer substantial seasonal savings from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Great rates abound at hotels, golf courses, and even restaurants. It's a cost-effective way to provide a top-tier meeting experience in a highly desirable destination.
TUCSON'S new PRESIDIO TRAIL is a self-guided walking tour of historic and cultural points of interest. A turquoise line painted on the sidewalk connects 23 sites on the two-mile loop. Walkers visit an archeological dig at the original Spanish Presidio of Tucson, an outdoor shrine for lost lovers, and a cafe in the 1920s-era Hotel Congress (right) where the infamous John Dillinger gang was arrested. All you need is a brochure and map from the Tucson CVB. www.visittucson.org
Fifteen miles south of SANTA FE, RANCHO DE LAS GOLONDRINAS (“Ranch of the Swallows”) now serves as a living history museum where visitors can watch authentically attired “ranch hands” make rope, roll tortillas, and string chiles. Docents in period costumes guide visitors through the sprawling former ranch, which dates from 1710. The adobe compound can host meals for 400 and has a meeting room for up to 100 attendees. www.golondrinas.org
After 35 years in SCOTTSDALE, Arizona's largest western-themed attraction has relocated to the GILA RIVER INDIAN RESERVATION, south of PHOENIX. RAWHIDE AT WILD HORSE PASS is sited on 163 acres and offers a 52,000-square-foot pavilion; a 50,000-square-foot event lawn; function rooms; private cookout sites; and a restaurant. Attractions include gunfights, a shooting gallery, stagecoach rides, live country music, and stunt shows. www.rawhide.com