Convention centers throughout the Southwest have struggled to keep pace with the area's burgeoning growth. Now, they are reaping the rewards of their cities' popularity with the recent expansion of convention centers and services in Arizona, New Mexico, Las Vegas, and the Southern California desert.
Albuquerque, N.M., is celebrating its tricentennial this year. 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.” In Santa Fe, construction of a new $55 million civic center began in February, with completion expected in fall 2007. The center will increase in total size from 45,000 square feet to more than 72,000 square feet.
In January, the official reopening of the Palm Springs (Calif.) Convention Center marked the end of a $34 million renovation and expansion project 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 — 156,000 square feet of new meeting space debuted 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.
The 3.2-million-square-foot Las Vegas Convention Center is just the beginning of the mega-facilities available in the city renowned for its lavish commitment to meetings and incentives. New additions to the ever-expanding 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.
The 331-room Wigwam Golf Resort and Spa west of Phoenix has opened a 26,000-square-foot Red Door Spa.
After a $70 million project, Scottsdale's Hotel Valley Ho reopened in December with 194 guest rooms, two restaurants, a spa, and 10,000 square feet of indoor meeting space.
The W Scottsdale Hotel will open in 2007 with 224 guest rooms, three meeting rooms, a 3,500-square-foot ballroom, and a spa.
Radisson Fort McDowell Resort & Casino opened in December on the Yavapai Reservation adjacent to Scottsdale with 248 guest rooms. The resort offers 25,000 square feet of meeting space, including an 18,000-square-foot ballroom and 15 meeting rooms.
Solis Hotels and Resorts bought La Posada Resort in Paradise Valley, between Phoenix and Scottsdale, and will convert it to Montelucia, a Spanish-themed luxury boutique resort. It 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.
In Tempe, The Buttes, A Marriott Resort will finish a renovation of its 353 guest rooms this fall.
The 167-room Omni Tucson National Golf Resort & Spa has opened a second 18-hole championship course.
In downtown Palm Springs, the Hotel Zoso opened last December with 163 guest rooms, 20,000 square feet of meeting space, and a 22,000-square-foot exhibit area.
Hyatt Grand Champions Resort and Spa in Indian Wells completed a renovation of 295 guest rooms in February.
The Platinum Hotel and Spa opened in July with 255 suites. Meeting and event facilities at the nongaming condo hotel include a boardroom, four conference rooms each seating up to 60 persons, 4,000 square feet of breakout space, and a rooftop terrace for groups of up to 250.
The first phase 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, 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.
Aladdin Resort and Casino remains open in Vegas while undergoing a complete transformation that will culminate late this year with the debut of Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino.
Wynn Las Vegas opened in 2005 with 2,700 guest rooms and suites, a golf course, a spa, a casino, and 200,000 square feet of meeting space.
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 and 86,000 square feet of meeting space.
The Doubletree Hotel Albuquerque completed a $5.5 million update late last year of its guest rooms and 7,500 square feet of meeting space.
In the mountains of Mescalero, Inn of the Mountain Gods completed an expansion and renovation in 2005. The property has 273 rooms and suites, 40,000 square feet of meeting space, a 38,000-square-foot casino, and an 18-hole championship golf course.
Ask the CVB
Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau
(877) CALLPHX, (602) 254-6500
Total Hotel Tax: 12.07%
(800) 782-1117, (480) 421-1004
Total Hotel Tax: 11.92%
(800) 283-6734; www.tempecvb.com
Total Hotel Tax: 12.07%
Metropolitan Tucson CVB
(800) 638-8350, (520) 624-1817
Total Hotel Tax: 11.5% to 13.5%, depending on location
Palm Springs Desert Resorts CVB
Total Hotel Tax: 9% to 12.5%, depending on location
Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority
(877) VISITLV, (702) 892-0711
Total Hotel Tax: 9%
(800) 733-9918, (505) 842-9918
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.
Active groups will enjoy discovering Tucson's treasures on the new Presidio Trail, a self-guided walking tour of historic and cultural points of interest. www.visittucson.org
Rancho de las Golondrinas, 15 miles south of Santa Fe, is a living history museum with authentically attired, working “ranch hands” and docents in period costumes. The compound offers three plazas, a catering kitchen where meals for 400 guests can be prepared, a covered outdoor dining pavilion, and a meeting room for up to 100. www.golondrinas.org
Arizona's largest Western-themed attraction has relocated to the Gila River Indian Reservation, south of Phoenix. Rawhide at Wild Horse Pass offers a 52,000-square-foot, climate-controlled pavilion; a 50,000-square-foot event lawn; function rooms; cookout sites; and a restaurant. Attractions include gunfights, a shooting gallery, stagecoach rides, and stunt shows. www.rawhide.com
For more articles on U.S. destinations, click here.