WHAT'S NEW

Arizona, where visitors can swim or play tennis in the morning, then go skiing in the White Mountains or hiking in the pines near Flagstaff in the afternoon (and in the spring and summer watch the Arizona Diamondbacks play ball in the evening), is adding more facilities to attract meetings and conventions. With Phoenix a lightning rod for conventions and meetings in the area, voters there have approved a $300 million renovation and expansion of the 30-year-old Phoenix Civic Plaza convention center. When complete, the center will have more than doubled in size (to 500,000 square feet of exhibit space and 210,000 square feet of meeting space). The expansion is set for completion in two years. Also up for development is a convention center hotel that will be located adjacent to the Phoenix Civic Plaza.

At Marriott's famed Camelback Inn in Scottsdale, a redesigned, $16 million golf club is now open with a totally redesigned championship course, representing Marriott's single largest investment in a golf facility.

In Santa Fe, N.M., the 820-seat Lensie Performing Arts Center, a renovated vaudeville house, was converted to a performance venue last year. It can host meetings and features a new museum.

Medical meetings are nothing new for Santa Fe, N.M., according to Becky Ellis, executive director and CMP for the Santa Fe Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The healing arts here are a natural draw for medical groups,” Ellis says.

And in the Palm Springs, Calif., area (which includes Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Indian Wells, Indio, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, La Quinta, and Desert Hot Springs), hotels and resorts are upgrading and expanding.

Medical meeting planners normally stymied when trying to book an event in Las Vegas might find hotels a little more approachable these days. Lower occupancies have caused up to 15,000 tourism-related layoffs since September 11. Those empty hotel rooms have opened windows for meeting planners.

I WAS THERE

The Health Forum in San Francisco chose Tucson's Westward Look Resort last October because of its location, peaceful surroundings, proximity to the University of Arizona, and the fact that Tucson is a hub destination.

The group of 65 — a leadership-development/fellowship event — will return to the Westward Look in October 2002 and possibly in 2003, says Johanna Infantine, associate director of Health Forum Fellowships.

“We wanted a place where our fellows could be outside, but we were also impressed with its meeting and guest room facilities,” she says. “While there for the weeklong gathering, the group was treated to a Southwest barbecue plus a hike in Sabeno Canyon. We are going back, and we are looking forward to it.”

Infantine was impressed with the staff's preparedness and professionalism. She says her group encountered no difficulties even though the retreat took place only one month after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

VENUE MENU

  • The new Milner Plaza has two museums flanking it: the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and the Museum of International Folk Arts. Both have group function space.



ON LOCATION — Taos, N.M.

  • Walking the paths D.H. Lawrence trod, riding the roads Easy Rider cruised, seeing the church Ansel Adams and Georgia O Keeffe made iconic — all are possible in Taos, N.M., a terrific locale for small- to mid-sized meetings and conferences.



Attendees can fly into Albuquer-que, then drive 135 miles north to Taos' bustling downtown that hunkers beneath the Sangre de Cristo mountains and a Day-Glo-blue blanket of sky. The town itself is small, with fewer than 7,000 year-round inhabitants.

On a recent trip, I visited more than a dozen meeting venues, including the Taos Civic Plaza and Convention Center, with 25,000 square feet of meeting space. Its largest room can seat 700 banquet-style.

The 85-room Fechin Inn, filled with Nicolai Fechin's art, has 2,100 square feet of meeting space. The Mabel Dodge Luhan House and Conference Center is a boutique-style property that accommodates about 30.

A spectacular totem pole is the signature of the 118-room Best Western Kachina Lodge & Meeting Center, which has 7,500 square feet of meeting space. Art lines the walls of the 100-room Don Fernando de Taos Holiday Inn, specializing in groups of up to 225. The 100-room Sagebrush Inn's 18,000-square-foot conference center seats 750 banquet-style. The 110-room/suite Quail Ridge Inn has meeting space for 70 people.

B&Bs are abundant, and Dharma Properties' Anglada's Building offers 5,138 square feet of function space.

Climb several thousand feet to the Taos Ski Valley, and you'll find 15 meeting rooms (9,000 square feet of meeting space) and 200 hotel and condo accommodations. One, the Inn at Snakedance, served our group of 40 a spectacular six-course meal and wine-tasting event.

A “must-see” is Taos Pueblo. Bookstores, galleries, and shops are plentiful. For great teambuilding or pre- or post-meeting adventures, attendees can go hot-air ballooning, skiing, golfing, fly fishing, or river rafting. www.meet-taos.com/
Vicki Stiefel

WHERE TO GO

Phoenix/Scottsdale, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Palm Springs area, CA
Las Vegas, NV
Santa Fe, N.M.
Taos, N.M

“We wanted a place where our fellows could be outside…we were also impressed with its facilities”
Johanna Infantine,
Health Forum Fellowships



TAOS HIDEAWAY

The Mabel Dodge Luhan House and Conference Center, former home of the esteemed Taos writer and arts aficionado, is a boutique property that's ideal for small meetings. It can seat 30 classroom-style.

Meeting at Mabel's house puts you in good company. Willa Cather stayed here, as did D.H. Lawrence, Georgia O'Keeffe, Ansel Adams, and Dennis Hopper.

CONTACT THE CVB

Arizona

Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau
(602) 254-6500
• Fax: (602) 253-4415
www.phoenixcvb.com

Metropolitan Tucson CVB
(800) 638-8350, (520) 624-1817
• Fax: (520) 884-7804
www.visittucson.org

California

Palm Springs Desert Resorts Convention & Visitors Authority
(760) 770-9000 • Fax: (760) 770-9001
www.PalmSpringsUSA.com

Nevada

Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority
(702) 892-0711 • Fax: (702) 892-2933
www.lasvegas24hours.com

New Mexico

Santa Fe Convention & Visitors Bureau
(800) 984-9984, (505) 955-6200
www.santafe.org

Taos Chamber of Commerce
(800) 732-8267
• Fax: (505) 758-3872
http://meet-taos.com

GOING Up

ARIZONA — NEW

  • The Marriott Desert Ridge Resort, part of a 5,700-acre master-planned community in Phoenix, will open in November with 950 rooms, a 28,000-square-foot spa, an eight-court tennis pavilion, and two 18-hole golf courses. The resort will feature 200,000 feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, and will offer nine dining facilities.



Expansion

  • The Westward Look in Tucson, sited on 80 acres of the Santa Catalina foothills, recently opened a 4,500-square-foot ballroom. It has renovated its guest rooms and expanded destination services as well. The property has 20,000 square feet of conference space, 244 suite-sized rooms, and two new executive suites. Many medical groups have held meetings here because of the property's long-time relationship with the University of Arizona's medical school.

  • In Tucson, a Marriott and a Hyatt are scheduled to break ground this year. The Marriott, close to downtown in the Tucson Mountain foothills, will offer 575 rooms, more than 66,000 square feet of meeting space. The Hyatt plans to open a 500-room, full-service resort northwest of the city. Both properties plan championship golf courses.



NEVADA —

  • One of the newest properties in Vegas, the Venetian is connected to the 1.2 million square foot Sands Expo Center. However, the 3,036 room hotel has 1.7 million feet of meeting and exhibit space if its own, including two ballrooms. The 85,000 foot Venetian Ballroom — the largest pillarless ballroom in the United States — can handle 7,500 theater style and 8,500 for a reception. The 13,500 foot Palazzo Ballroom can seat 1,000 theater style and can accommodate 1,250 for receptions. There are 110 breakout rooms.



NEW MEXICO — Expansion

  • The 111-room Bishop's Lodge, in Santa Fe, has opened a new 3,800 square-foot conference center, bringing its total meeting space to 6,000 square feet.



CENTERS OF THE ACTION

ARIZONA

PHOENIX Civic Plaza convention center is on schedule for a $300 million renovation to double the facility's meeting space, which now stands at 375,000 square feet. It will be complete by early 2004. (602) 254-6500; www.phoenix.gov/CIVICPLAZA/plazaidx.html

TUCSON Convention Center has 124,000 feet of floor space and features the Galleria, which is a connector to all areas; the exhibition hall; the grand ballroom; and the arena. There is a music hall seating 2,100 and the Leo Rich Theater, which seats 500. (520) 791-4101; www.visittucson.org

CALIFORNIA

PALM SPRINGS Convention Center is a 40-acre complex with 145,000-plus square feet of under-roof meeting space and 66,000 square feet of unobstructed carpeted space that can be expanded to 77,000 square feet. Outdoor facilities offer another 50,000 square feet of event space. www.palmspringscc.com

NEVADA

LAS VEGAS Convention Center debuted a $170 million, 1.3 million-square-foot expansion in January. It is the largest single-level convention and meeting center in the U.S. (702) 892-0711; Fax: (702) 892-2824; www.lasvegas24hours.com

NEW MEXICO

SANTA FE's Sweeney Convention Center recently completed a $500,000 makeover. Sweeney has 20,000 square feet of space. Its main floor has 10,000 square feet of exhibit space. (800) 984-9984; www.santafe.org