The latest wave of visitors to flood Phoenix this summer rolls into downtown this week when almost 30,000 members of the Assemblies of God begin gathering at the Phoenix Convention Center and US Airways Center.

These visitors, in town for 2011 General Council of the Assemblies of God, are expected to inject more than $43 million worth of direct spending into the regional economy during their stay. The event begins today with sessions at the convention center and an evening welcome reception at US Airways Center. It concludes Friday night with a celebration service at US Airways Center.

In between, downtown Phoenix’s sidewalks and businesses will teem with activity atypical for the height of summer but reminiscent of mid-July’s Major League Baseball All-Star Week.

“Unlike the MLB All-Star Game, conventions like this one aren’t televised internationally and their highlights aren’t replayed over and over on ESPN,” said Doug MacKenzie, Director of Communications at the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau. “But in terms of how it will directly impact the local economy, the Assemblies of God convention is surprisingly similar to a mega sporting event.”

The MLB All-Star Game and its accompanying events generated an estimated $67 million in direct spending when they were showcased at Chase Field and the Phoenix Convention Center July 8-12.

Other big events hosted by the convention center this summer include the Southern Baptist Convention (June 7-17), Volleyball Festival (June 22-27) and Benevolent & Protective Order of the Elks Annual Meeting (July 14-22). Together with the General Council of the Assemblies of God, these four conventions are responsible for generating approximately $100 million in direct spending for metropolitan Phoenix.

“The Assemblies of God group caps our biggest summer for convention business since the opening of the new Phoenix Convention Center (in 2009),” MacKenzie said. “Which means it’s our biggest summer ever, because before the convention center expanded Phoenix couldn’t attract groups this big.”

The 30,000-plus attendees who will convene for General Council make it the second-biggest convention to meet at the new Phoenix Convention Center behind only the National Rifle Association Annual Meeting & Exhibits, which had an attendance of 64,000 in 2009.
The General Council is the biennial business meeting of the Assemblies of God, one of the largest Pentecostal groups in the world with more than 64 million members. This week’s meeting is for the U.S. Assemblies of God, which has about 3 million members and adherents. According to the group’s Web site, General Council is held to conduct important church business, elect top officials, and to assemble ministries and activities of the church.