Consultant Says Downtown Phoenix Needs Hotel And District

By Christina Estes
Published: Monday, January 27, 2020 - 5:05am

stairs leading to south building
Christina Estes/KJZZ
The South Building of the Phoenix Convention Center.

A market study involving the Phoenix Convention Center points out challenges and opportunities as the city considers what to do with the South Building.

The South Building covers more than 9 acres right across from Chase Field. It’s the center’s oldest building and used mostly for local and smaller events. Developers have approached Phoenix about buying the city-owned property but an outside consultant told the economic development subcommittee that’s not a good move right now.

“Our recommendation is you can’t lose that interior space because that’s the only place you’d have to ever expand your convention center if you ever wanted to,” said John Kaatz with Convention Sports & Leisure International.

He said convention planners want one main space, not areas spread out for blocks. 

In the short term, he suggests Phoenix work to get a hotel with 800 to 1,200 rooms that’s attached to or adjacent to the convention center. Based on his research, Kaatz said Phoenix falls short in hotel inventory within one-half mile of the center. Phoenix has 3,838 rooms, compared to the median of 7,800, which included Phoenix and 12 other markets.

He noted Phoenix has 125 dining places within a half-mile from the center which is the median number for the group and pointed out what’s lacking: a brand for the area similar to San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, Nashville’s Music City Center and Seattle’s Pike Street.

“The area when you walk around the convention center, you’re not in a district,” he said. “It doesn’t scream this is an entertainment zone that we can go to market with and beat, in some cases, the Austins, or the Nashvilles, or the San Diegos or the San Antonios.”

In addition to developing a district, he suggested the center maximize its use of outdoor space by adding areas for learning and make technological improvements to welcome augmented virtual reality opportunities. 

“Imagine a medical company’s got a booth on the floor rather than moving in this million dollar piece of equipment, they have to go to special areas which, again, is reinventing some of your existing space,” Kaatz said. “Now I’m walking through their factory in  Frankfurt and I’m literally looking at the equipment  and they don’t have to bring it all over here.”

He said a recent survey showed 19% of planners used augmented reality at events in the past and 54% plan to use it in the future.

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