by Ann Shepphird | January 01, 2016

The Greater Phoenix area has hosted a number of big sporting events in the last few years. This includes last year’s Super Bowl and, most recently, the 2016 College Football Playoff Championship Game. Although the championship game was held at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, downtown Phoenix served as the hub of the pre-game festivities, which included a Championship Campus that encompassed a number of blocks in the downtown area in and around the convention center and illustrated the city’s ability to host large city-wide events. On a recent visit, I was able to check out the championship festivities and a number of other improvements that have been made to the meetings infrastructure, including the opening of the UA College of Medicine/Phoenix Biomedical Campus and its Center for Simulation and Innovation, which will be of particular interest to medical associations looking to meet in the city.

Among the other new developments is the grand opening of the Camby Hotel near Camelback Mountain. Formerly a Ritz-Carlton, the Camby is now managed by Destination Hotels and is the first Autograph Collection Hotel to open in Arizona. The hotel, which has been designed with an eye toward the “playful professional,” features 277 guest rooms and more than 23,000 square feet of meeting space. Later this spring, in Scottsdale, the Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa is scheduled to open with 201 guest rooms and 20,000 square feet of indoor-outdoor meeting and event space.

Newly renovated hotels in the Valley of the Sun include the Boulders Resort & Spa in Carefree, which has completed an extensive renovation project that upgraded the 160 casitas, redesigned the main lodge and bar lounge, refurbished the Palo Verde restaurant and added the new 5,500-square-foot Latilla Ballroom. Also newly renovated is the Arizona Biltmore, which is putting the final touches on a $30 million project that included revamped guest rooms, meeting space, poolside cabanas and updated communication systems.

As part of my tour of the city, I also visited a number of unique venues that can be used for off-site gatherings, including cultural institutions (the Musical Instrument Museum, the Heard Museum and the Desert Botanical Garden), restaurants (Barrio Urbano, Flower Child, the Gladly and the Blue Hound Kitchen at the Hotel Palomar) and even cocktail lounges and underground speakeasies (Bitter & Twisted and the Valley Bar), some of which are pictured in our slide show below.