Arizona’s biggest resortbased convention center is getting a lot bigger. The JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa is building a 25,000-square foot ballroom and expanding its lavish corridor reception area by 14,200 square feet to accommodate the new structure.
The sprawling northeast Phoenix hotel’s third ballroom will cost $21 million and be completed by February, said Steve Hart, general manager.
And Hart already has $25 million worth of business booked to fill it.
“The first piece of business wouldn’t have been able to come to Arizona if they didn’t have use of the new ballroom,” Hart said.
That group will bring 2,400 people to the Valley and commandeer the entire convention center, he said.
That includes 112,000 square feet of interior space and more than 200,000 square feet overall including the lush outdoor courtyards and lawns set aside for pre- and postmeeting receptions and al fresco dining.
Even though the Phoenix Convention Center has much larger accommodations — more than 300,000 square feet now and 900,000 when the expansion is completed — the sites do not compete for the same business, Hart said.
“Civic Plaza has a huge amount of space, but our demographics are completely different,” he said.
While the downtown Phoenix center can handle hordes of conventiongoers and massive exhibitions, the Marriott meeting space appeals to the corporate or association groups that are smaller, more upscale and include resort amenities in the package.
“About 30 percent of the convention business includes 75 guest rooms or less,” Hart said.
Still, even the smaller, more upscale groups are getting bigger, he said. While the Marriott’s 950 rooms can accommodate a lot of meeting participants, Hart has been fielding requests for more meeting space.
And that led to the plan for expanding the convention center.
And possibly for adding more guest rooms in the near future to accommodate the even bigger draws.
Talks about expanding the hotel are in progress, Hart said.
The Marriott’s convention center, besides filling hotel rooms with meeting attendees, has been a boon to its leisure business, Hart said.
“A large amount of transient business is a result of people that come here for a meeting and then come back with the family, or people that bring the family along and come early or extend their stay after the meeting to enjoy the facilities at the resort,” he said.
Having a convention center attached to the resort also keeps the meetings business bustling year-round, Hart said.
Since nobody has to suffer sizzling summer temperatures unless they are heading to the pool or other refreshing after-meeting-hours pursuit, off-season sessions are not a hard sell, he said.
Scottsdale hotels likely will benefit from the convention center expansion, said Rachel Sacco, president of the Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Since the Desert Ridge Marriott’s debut five years ago, it has brought new visitors to the north East Valley, Sacco said, and allayed fears of Scottsdale hoteliers that the new resort would steal their customers. Adding more meeting space so close to Scottsdale likely will result in introducing even more people to the area, and spilling guests for the larger meetings into Scottsdale hotels, she said. “We’re all really supportive of this expansion,” she said.