In 1986 the first spark, among what many thought were dead ashes, ignited in decaying downtown Phoenix. With the debut of the Herberger Theater, downtown received the jump start it needed to become the vital, dynamic center of culture and recreation that it is today. The $19 million Herberger is home to the Arizona Theatre Company, Arizona Opera, Ballet Arizona, and Actors Theatre of Phoenix, in addition to performances by respected visiting artists.

Another downtown mainstay, the Arizona Center, is an exciting hub of activity during the day, and becomes a lively shopping and dining destination at night, especially when major events are scheduled downtown. A variety of restaurants ranging from casual Mexican to upscale Italian are side by side with fashion boutiques and nightclubs. Just opened in the Center is a 24-screen movie theater complex. The pleasant garden and fountain area, flanked by two high-rise office buildings, provides a calm, quiet respite from the rigors of the day.

Sharing honors with the Herberger Theater as a performing arts venue is the historic Orpheum Theatre, built in 1929 and recently restored to its Spanish Baroque Revival glory. The 1,450-seat theater is popular for community and civic events, as well as plays and concerts. Among the most recent signs of downtown's redevelopment is the $12 million Margaret T. Hance Deck Park, a 29-acre green belt with a paved urban plaza studded with fountains. A playground, volleyball court, and picnic ramadas kept shady by evergreen elms attract families on weekends.

The collection of historic buildings called Heritage Square, part of the city's original development, dates to the late 1800s. The Eastlake Victorian Rosson House, built in 1895, is a classic example of the architecture of the time. The Carriage House, once a mule barn, now is a sandwich and gift shop. Lunch, tea, and pastries are offered at the Teeter House Victorian Tea Room, and the Arizona Doll & Toy Museum is in the Stevens bungalow. Getting around downtown is easy with 30-cents-a-ride DASH, a comfortable shuttle that runs every 6 or 12 minutes.

CONVENTION EVENTS CENTER AROUND PHOENIX CIVIC PLAZA One of the marks of a great convention city is the effortless way it graciously accommodates large numbers of guests. With Phoenix Civic Plaza Convention Center as the energetic core, Phoenix skillfully performs its function as a world-class convention destination.

Completely renovated just three years ago, the center has five exhibit halls on a single level that cover a total of 300,000 square feet. Included is a dramatic 28,000-square-foot ballroom with a 6,000-square-foot multipurpose stage and 43 individual lighting and sound systems. These features create the capa- bility of staging a wide range of events as well as expositions.

Food services at the plaza are designed to serve as many as 10,000 guests for buffets, sit-down dinners, or cocktail functions. Hosts often choose to serve outdoors on the palm-lined patio.

Within walking distance of the Plaza are 1,600 hotel rooms, to top 2,700 by the year 2000, including a new 700-room Westin, part of a new $500 million center that will include offices, shops, and restaurants. It will feature 55,000 square feet of meeting space. Doubletree hotel by the year 2000, the total number of rooms that are within an easy five-minute stroll of the center will top 2,700. This substantial inventory enables the city to host the nation's most highly- attended conventions.

SCIENCE CENTER DISHES OUT SURPRISES FOR ALL AGES From its sweeping exterior curves and angles to the amazing interactive displays inside, this exciting center has something for everyone, whether they choose to participate or to remain a spectator. Opened just a year ago, it immediately became a must-see in downtown Phoenix.

Ham radio operators can talk to other hams, kids can irritate a giant "nose" that erupts in a startling "sneeze," and anyone can "fly" a Cessna in a wind tunnel. Exhibits entertain as they teach in an environment that encourages everyone to get involved. The Iwerks theater has a changing selection of films, and 3-D, 360-degree video and ride simulation capabilities. The 203-seat Dorrance Planetarium has a DigiStar projection system that simulates the night sky and heavenly events beneath a 60-foot dome. One of its most popular uses is for laser light shows.