Together, Phoenix and Scottsdale provide a powerful meetings/incentive combo thanks to the prolific infrastructure upgrades and world-beating golf, spa and cuisine. We checked in with the Greater Phoenix CVB and a few Starwood Hotels & Resorts to get a feel for the big picture in the Valley of the Sun.
Phoenix, the fifth largest city in the United States, is currently experiencing a radical renaissance with new projects like the chic mixed-use CityScape project and The Westin Phoenix Downtown (11,000 sf of meeting space). The art-filled Phoenix Convention Center has expanded to 900,000 sf of event and meeting space. And attendees can now jump on the recently debuted light-rail system that connects all that meeting space to a slew of new options for dining and entertainment.
“Downtown Phoenix is a big surprise for those who haven’t come to the city in a few years,” says Douglas MacKenzie, Director of Communications for the Phoenix CVB. “It’s also become a center of good food where you can enjoy a great meal pre-game, after a concert or between meetings.” Even the convention center has eschewed the usual shrink wrap/fast food lobby fare for a food court that features some great local restaurants.”
Come sunset, the haunting sounds of Scottish bagpipes reach out across the greens of the Kierland Golf Course, part of Scottsdale’s 4-diamond, 732-room Westin Kierland Resort & Spa. The hotel just finished work on an additional 21,000 sf of meeting space, upping their total to 208,000.
The Scottish theme is in full evidence at the Kierland Golf Club’s Brittlebrush Bar & Grill. Headed by Chef de Cuisine Graeme Blair, the menu offers a fanciful glance at Scottish and English pub fare with a modern twist: think short rib stuffed Yorkshire pudding, mac & cheese laced with lobster claw, and individual steak & Guinness pies. One of the most popular Scottish imports—scotch whiskey—has pride of place. It’s even served on the golf course via the unique Johnnie Walker beverage carts, serving Blue, Gold and Green label brands to golfers in air conditioned golf carts.
“Many people don’t know about the contributions made by Scottish immigrants to the development of Arizona’s railroads, towns and mines,” says Stephanie Dowling, Director of PR. “We wanted to pay them homage by incorporating their traditions in our hotel, like our Scottish golf experience, where you can rent a kilt to play, or our Saturday night scotch whiskey tastings.”
Beyond the tartan, planners will find plenty to do for their attendees: the Kierland, in fact, has a dedicated “Funcierge.”
“We’ve recently added a variety of teambuilding exercises led by our Funcierge,” says Dowling. “He plans anything from short breaks to day-long competitions.”
Other activities include ceviche-making classes and mojito muddling courses at Deseo. The restaurant showcases the work of James Beard award-winning Chef Douglas Rodríguez, who’s considered one of the founding fathers of Nuevo Latino cuisine.