According to a recent Medical Meetings survey, Arizona ranks fourth in the top 10 meeting destinations preferred by physicians. This may be due in part to its attractive geography: From the pine forests in Northern Arizona's White Mountains to the saguaro-studded desert in its south and central reaches near Tucson, from the enormous Navajo Indian reservation in the east to the silvery Colorado River on its western border, Arizona is a celebration of diversity. Its popularity is also undoubtedly due to its sophisticated meeting and medical infrastructure. In Phoenix alone, world-class specialized medical facilities include the Barrows Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Medical Center, the Mayo Clinic, and the Arizona Heart Institute. Most have resources for tours as well as speakers.

The country's sixth-largest city, Phoenix offers top-notch golf at 190 courses, accommodations at five-star/five-diamond resorts and spas, and fabulous shopping and restaurants. Professional sports events abound: The Arizona Diamondbacks National League baseball team, the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes, the NBA's Phoenix Suns, and the Arizona Cardinals of the NFL make Phoenix one of eight cities to have top professional teams in all four major sports. And the city is continuing to build on its strong infrastructure.

Within the Phoenix metropolitan area, Scottsdale glitters with the glitz and glamour of a resort city; Tempe invites visitors to newly opened Town Lake; and Mesa offers museums, golf, and interesting tours at the Mormon Temple.

Tucson is updating its downtown area with extensive renovations to an art-deco movie theater that will be used for classic film screenings as well as live performances. Still on the drawing board, the city's Rio Nuevo project calls for a Sonoran aquarium, IMAX theater, a Southwest visitors center, new Arizona Historical Society headquarters and museum, and a planetarium.

GREATER PHOENIX Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport continues to grow, with $619 million being invested in 78 projects. America West Airlines has a dozen new gates in Terminal 4, and more shops and restaurants are set to open. A new runway opened in September, and the north runway will be extended to accommodate larger, heavier jets. The Phoenix Civic Plaza had a major $1 million spruce-up.

hotel news * The Four Seasons Resort in Scottsdale at Troon North has opened with 188 guest rooms arranged in one-, two-, and three-story territorial-style buildings, plus 22 suites. It offers 24,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor function space on a single level.

* The new 270-suite Scottsdale Marriott at McDowell Mountain offers meeting rooms with a view. It has 15,000 square feet of versatile meeting space.

* The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess has undergone $10 million in upgrades.

* With a $12 million addition less than a year old, the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix has 60,000 square feet of meeting space. The new Arizona Wing adds two meeting rooms, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and 120 deluxe guest rooms, bringing the guest room total to 730.

* Chaparral Suites Hotel, formerly the Embassy Suites in Scottsdale, has unveiled its new grand ballroom, with more than 11,200 square feet of meeting space, bringing total meeting space to 20,000 square feet. The ballroom accommodates 1,400 theater-style.

* The Hyatt Regency Phoenix has completed a $7.2 million renovation of its 712 rooms and suites.

* A full renovation of all 493 guest rooms at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort at Gainey will be completed this fall, and the new 12,000-square-foot Arizona Ballroom will open in January.

* Phoenix's Pointe Hilton on South Mountain has a newly renovated 42,000-square-foot Sports Club, offering a full-service spa, tennis, aerobics, mountain biking, sand volleyball, and weight machines. The resort has 638 suites and 60 meeting rooms, with a total of 85,000 square feet of meeting space. There are two championship golf courses on the resort's 700 acres.

* The Ranch on Camelback Mountain in Scottsdale will reopen on December 1 with its 82 guest rooms and casitas completely redesigned. Also included in the renovation: an "edgeless" swimming pool, a redesigned fine dining restaurant and lounge, seven new tennis courts, and landscape design. In 2001, the resort will add 24 new multi-level guest casitas and a 12,000-square-foot outdoor spa.

* The Scottsdale Conference Resort has completed a $2 million refurbishment to all guest rooms and public spaces. The property has 326 guest rooms, suites, and casitas, and features more than 50,000 square feet of conference space in 50 meeting rooms, all with T1 Internet connections and videoconferencing capabilities. The property recently opened the 10,000-square-foot Coronado Ballroom, which will accommodate 1,000 attendees theater-style. The resort has 80,000 square feet of exhibit space, and two 18-hole championship courses.

* In Carefree, the Carefree Conference Resort is expanding its 249-room capacity to roughly 270 guest rooms and suites in 2000, 320 in 2001, and over 350 in 2002. The expansion will also add 10,000 square feet of meeting space.

important info Greater Phoenix CVB * (602) 254-6500; (877) MEET-PHX

* Fax: (602) 253-4415; www.phoenixcvb.com

Phoenix Civic Plaza Conv. Center * (602) 262-6225

* Fax: (602) 495-3642; www.ci.phoenix.az.us

The center has 375,000 square feet of meeting space with up to 43 meeting rooms. Exhibit space totals 221,000 square feet and includes five exhibit halls. There is a 28,000-square-foot ballroom. Symphony Hall seats 2,587 and has a fully equipped stage.

Scottsdale CVB * (602) 945-8481; (800) 877-1117

* Fax: (602) 947-4523; www.scottsdalecvb.com

Tempe CVB * (480) 894-8158; (800)283-6734

* Fax: (480) 968-8004

* www.tempecvb.com

TUCSON

The Tucson International Airport completed the first step in a major, $50 million terminal expansion.

hotel news * The Sheraton El Conquistador's new conference center added 25,000 square feet, for more than 50,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor function space. All 132 casitas, part of the resort's 428 total room count, was completely refurbished in September. Also completed in September was a $2.1 million improvement to the golf course.

* The Lazy K Bar Ranch has renovated its 27 guest rooms and added 2,500 square feet of meeting and banquet space.

* A $4.2 million renovation of all 398 guest rooms at Loews Ventana Canyon in Tucson is complete. The resort offers 37,000 square feet of flexible function space and can accommodate up to 1,350 people.

important info Tucson Convention Center * (520) 791-4101

* Fax (520) 791-5572

* www.ci.tucson.az.us/tcc

The center has 205,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, including 120,000 square feet for exhibits, a 22,500-square-foot ballroom, a 2,277-seat music hall, a 9,700-seat arena, and a 511-seat theater.

Metropolitan Tucson CVB * (800) 638-8350

* Fax: (520) 884-7804

* www.visittucson.org

SEDONA

hotel news * The Enchantment Resort will open a destination spa in mid-November. Seven times larger than the existing spa, it will have 16 exclusive spa guest rooms and its own restaurants, which also may be used by hotel guests. Enchantment has 222 guest accommodations, a new 10,000-square-foot meeting village, and a 5,000-square-foot Pow Wow Pavilion, all set amid the area's spectacular red rocks in Boynton Canyon.

important info Sedona-Oak Creek Chamber of Commerce * (800) 288-7336

* Fax: (520) 204-1064

* www.arizonaguide.com/sedona i

The 250-member Society for Technology in Anesthesia, headquartered in Springfield, Ill., met in Scottsdale a few years ago and will be back in January 2001, at the Doubletree in Paradise Valley, says Beverlee Anderson, the group's executive director. "We enjoyed Phoenix, and this time we decided to come closer in to town because there's lots to do in Scottsdale within walking distance [of the hotel], and there is also the trolley transportation system," she says.

The meeting is always held in January, which means finding a place with great weather is essential. The fact that Phoenix's average winter temperature is in the 70s, and the city is so easy to get in and out of also influenced the group's choice.

"This is a group that brings families, too, so activities and tours are important," says Anderson, adding that an optional Saturday day trip to Sedona is planned, as well as a dinner at Rawhide, an 1880s Western town.

Anderson explains that because almost all members of the society are technology-oriented, she looks for meeting sites that have resources for high-tech tours and for speakers, which she finds in the Phoenix area. "In our group we have MDs and a fair number of PhDs who work in the field of research and technology. The meeting is all about information systems, and tours are a vital part of the meeting. Phoenix, for us, is very techy," she says.