Maybe it's the weather (300 days of sunshine a year), or the lifestyle and reasonable cost of living. Whatever the reason, desert communities in Nevada, Arizona, and California have become favorite places for business development, residential relocation, and, yes,.
In a class by itself is Las Vegas, the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the U.S. The phenomenal growth in the city's hotel construction is set to continue through 1999. Indeed, by the middle of this year, the city will boast more than 100,000 hotel rooms. Just last year saw the opening of the 3,000-room Monte Carlo Casino Hotel, the 1,500-room Stratosphere Hotel & Casino, and the 2,100-room New York New York. And more mega-theme resorts are on the way.
Adding to the city's record amount of meeting space (four million square feet), Las Vegas developers announced plans in January to build a multiuse domed stadium in downtown Vegas, which would also serve as a major convention and special-events venue. The proposed stadium calls for an 111,000-seat arena, which will have a retractable dome, with a 250,000-square-foot convention center and a non-gaming hotel attached. If approved, the stadium is scheduled for completion in 1999.
Proceeding at a less frenetic pace is the redevelopment of downtown Phoenix, which began in 1990 with the opening of the Arizona Center, an eight-block, mixed-use development with more than 60 restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues. A block away from the center, the Phoenix Civic Plaza completed a $33 million renovation in 1995. And just one block east of the Civic Plaza, the Bank One Ballpark, a retractable domed stadium, is scheduled to open in 1998, when it will become home to the Arizona Diamondbacks ma-
jor league baseball franchise. Also new downtown is the renovated, 1,400-seat Orpheum Theatre, dating back to 1929. With these and other downtown developments, Phoenix now boasts a compact area of cultural, entertainment, and meeting attractions. And the latest news is that downtown may soon see one or two new hotels. At press time, the city council was studying proposals to build a Renaissance Hotel attached to the Arizona Center and/or a Westin property across the street from the Civic Plaza. The 600- to 700-room hotels, if approved, will be slotted for a 1999 opening.
Meanwhile, Scottsdale continues to be a mecca for medical meetings, thanks to its more than 30 resorts and hotels, and an ever-growing number of golf courses. Two new public courses open this year at the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community, while last year the Phoenician Resort expanded its 18-hole golf course into a 27-hole championship course.
In nearby Tempe, construction is set to begin on a $40 million recreation lake a half mile from downtown. The two-mile long lake will be the focal point of the Rio Salado development, which is to include a 1,000-room Peabody Hotel and, eventually, an entertainment district. Both the hotel and the lake are expected to be completed by 1999.
Meanwhile, high in Arizona's Sonoran Desert, more than 900 hotel rooms opened in Tucson and a 154-room Marriott Courtyard is under construction in midtown. A new attraction just outside of Tucson is the Kartchner Caverns. Four new 18-hole golf courses opened last year in the area. Tucson's Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum has been called "the most distinctive museum in the United States," by the New York Times. Another Tucson icon, Old Tucson Studios, is open again for receptions, rodeos, and cookouts, following a multimillion dollar reconstruction project after a fire devastated the facility in 1995.
California's Palm Spring's Desert Resorts, encompassing Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Desert Hot Springs, Indian Wells, Indio, La Quinta, Palm Desert, and Rancho Mirage, now boast 90 golf courses with plans to break the 100 mark by the year 2000.
Convention and exhibition Centers Arizona The newly renovated Phoenix Civic Plaza is a single-level, non-union downtown facility with more than 300,000 square feet of convention space, including 223,000 square feet of exhibit space in five halls, 43 meeting rooms, a 2,599-seat symphony hall, and a 28,000-square-foot ballroom.
Tucson Convention Center contains a 90,000-square-foot exhibit hall, a 33,700-square-foot arena, a 24,000-square-foot lower exhibit hall, a 20,000-square-foot ballroom, a 2,221-seat music hall, and a 511-seat theater.
California Palm Springs Convention Center includes 66,000 square feet of exhibit space and ten meeting rooms.
The Desert ExpoCentre in Indio has 22,000 square feet of exhibit space, plus four meeting rooms.
Nevada The Las Vegas Convention Center encompasses 1.3 million square feet of exhibit space and 89 meeting rooms, the largest seating 7,500 persons theater-style.
Cashman Field Center has 98,000 square feet of exhibit space in two halls, a 10,000-seat sports stadium, 16 meeting rooms, and a 2,000-seat theater.
Located on the Strip, Sands Expo & Convention Center includes 935,000 square feet of exhibit space and 31,000 square feet in 23 meeting rooms.
Hotel News Arizona Phoenix The 600-room Arizona Biltmore Resort & Villas completed construction of 78 two-room villas.
The 120-room Royal Palms opened in November with 10,000 square feet of meeting space.
Scottsdale All 325 guest rooms at the Scottsdale Conference Resort have been refurbished.
The 404-room Scottsdale Plaza Resort is promoting itsprograms for the corporate meetings market. The resort offers individually designed programs that may include pool games, golf and tennis tournaments, dine-arounds, desert jeep tours, and river floats.
The Boulders, a Carefree Resort, last summer completed a $2 million enhancement program, including the installation of a state-of-the-art phone system, refurbished dining rooms and meeting rooms, and improvements to the resort's 18-hole course.
The Phoenician Resort has added nine holes of golf for a total of 27. Golfers can now play three different 18-hole rounds at the resort. Sixty new guest rooms were completed in October.
Marriott's Camelback Inn Resort has completed the second phase of a five-year, $17 million guest room and spa renovation.
Tucson Canyon Ranch is offering groups of up to 30 persons four- to seven-night corporate meetings packages that include accommodations, meals, use of the spa and resort facilities, airport transfers, gratuities, meeting rooms, AV equipment, and beverage service during meeting breaks.
Last June the Westward Look Resort opened its Wellness Center, with six treatment rooms.
The new 225-room Marriott University Park is near the main entrance to the University of Arizona. The full-service hotel has 9,000 square feet of meeting space.
Chandler The Windmill Inn of Chandler opened in September. The resort's 126 suites are 500 square feet each, with 20 of the suites equipped for business travelers. There is a 16-person boardroom and a main conference room that seats up to 300 persons.
California Palm Springs The Hyatt Grand Champions Resort in Indian Wells has added an espresso bar and a gift shop, as well as a cigar humidor to the Pianissimo Lounge. A $1.1 million pool renovation this year includes a water park.
Marriott's Desert Springs Resort and Spa has completed a $9.1 million renovation project on its 884 guest rooms.
Westin Mission Hills Resort in Rancho Mirage is replacing soft goods in 512 guest rooms and is installing a misting system by the pool. The $1.5 million project is scheduled for completion this fall.
Nevada Las Vegas Circus Circus is building a 4,000-room mega-resort and casino on the Strip, tentatively called Project Paradise, with completion scheduled for fall of this year. The resort will surround a ten-acre tropical environment that will include a surfing beach.
To be built adjacent to the Paradise Project, a 400-room Four Seasons Hotel will be the first luxury, non-casino hotel on the Strip when it opens in 1998. (Circus Circus retains the real estate, while Four Seasons will manage the property.)
Ritz-Carlton has announced plans to build the Ritz-Carlton Resort at Mountain Spa, scheduled to open in 1999. The resort will encompass 640 acres and will include a 526-room hotel, a 40,000-square-foot casino, a 27,000-square-foot spa, and 36,100 square feet of meeting space.
Construction is slotted to begin early this year on a 33-story gambling resort called Paris on the Strip, adjacent to Bally's Hotel/Casino. Paris will feature replicas of the Arc de Triomphe and other Parisian monuments, as well as a working French winery and gondola rides. It is slotted to open in 1998.
The Sands Hotel & Casino has been demolished to make way for a new 6,000-room hotel and 200,000-square-foot casino. The property is to have a 400,000-square-foot meeting and exposition facility and is scheduled for completion in 1998.
Construction has begun on Bellagio, a 3,000-room resort hotel and casino on 12 acres. The $1.25 billion project, designed as an Italian village, is slotted to open in 1998.
Hyatt Hotels Corporation has entered into an agreement with Transcontinental Properties to construct a 500-room resort hotel at Lake Las Vegas Resort, a luxury planned community along 25 acres of the state's largest privately owned lake. Completion is scheduled for 1998.
Construction is under way on the $830 million, 3,000-room Planet Hollywood hotel/casino on the Strip, with completion slotted for 1999. The resort will feature a 120,000-square-foot convention center and a 1,600-seat showroom.
MGM Grand Hotel & Casino has begun a 30-month-long renovation/redesign program costing $250 million. A retail and nightclub complex, as well as a 300,000-square-foot convention center, are the highlights of the project.
A $600 million renovation and expansion has been approved for the Aladdin Hotel, which will have 2,600 guest rooms and an additional 100,000 square feet of convention space following the addition of two new guest towers. The casino will be enlarged to 100,000 square feet.
New York-New York Hotel & Casino opened in January with 2,035 guest rooms and replicas of the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge at the entrance.
Getting There Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is served by 23 airlines. International services expanded last year with the introduction of nonstop service on British Airways between Phoenix and London, and nonstop service to Dusseldorf on LTU International Airways (Germany's second-largest airline). The airport is three miles from downtown Phoenix and 12 miles from Scottsdale.
Tucson International Airport is served by most major carriers, with nonstop flights to 18 destinations.
Palm Springs Regional Airport, two miles from Palm Springs and ten miles from Palm Desert, is served by American, Delta, United, Alaska, America West, Northwest Airlink, SkyWest, United Express, and USAir Express.
Las Vegas's McCarran International Airport, served by 20 commercial carriers, is a five-minute ride from the convention center and The Strip. Construction is under way to open 16 new gates in 1998.
The San Francisco-based Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology (AUPO) has returned to the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix four times in the last eight years and plans to do so again next year. "The area and the hotel work well for us, particularly because the conference center is right there at the resort and that makes things easier," says Denise DeLosada, meetings coordinator for AUPO. She likes the fact that the hotel is always upgrading its facilities-meeting rooms, pool, and lobby, for example. Also, the resort setting works well for her group of 250 to 300 attendees, providing easy access to recreational amenities like golf and tennis. "We meet in February, and the weather can be iffy in Phoenix then," she admits. "but the resort hands out umbrellas if we need them."
Harriett Losin, meeting planner for the Triological Society, Western Section, in Los Angeles, has planned two desert meetings in two years for her group of about 200 doctors. Last year the group met at the Marriott Camelback Inn in Scottsdale-an experience Losin says was "exceptionally wonderful." She particularly liked Marriott's mock western-town venue on the hill behind the hotel, where the group had a reception with a mariachi, Mexican food, and "outstanding" service. "You felt like you were getting away from the hotel, yet you're really not."
In January Losin's group met at Tucson's Westin La Paloma Hotel. For a reception, the group hired a Navajo flute player; offered Mexican food, beer, and margaritas; and had an action station with hand-made tortillas for guests to nosh on. A popular tour of Tucson attractions included stops at the Biosphere and the Southwest Museum.
For More Information Arizona Phoenix & Valley of the Sun CVB
Kim Zieser, director, convention sales
Fax: (602) 253-4415
Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce
Rachel Sacco, director of convention and tourism
(602) 945-8481, (800) 877-1117
Fax: (602) 947-4523
Mesa Convention & Visitors Bureau
Francie Christopher, manager of convention sales
Fax: (602) 827-0727
Metropolitan Tucson CVB
Susan Skinner, director of sales
(800) 638-8350, ext. 148
Fax: (520) 884-7804
Debra Woodrow-Leon, director of convention sales
Fax: (602) 968-8004
California Palm Springs Desert Resorts CVB
Douglas Small, director of sales
Fax: (760) 770-9001
Nevada Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority
Rossi Ralenkotter,vice president marketing
Fax: (702) 892-2824