PHOENIX (Aug. 13, 2009) — President Barack Obama is set to make his third appearance in Phoenix since taking office, and this time the new Phoenix Convention Center will serve as his stage.
Obama will address thousands of delegates from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, who begin arriving in Phoenix this week for the VFW National Convention. This gathering of America’s largest organization of combat veterans will bring more than 12,000 service members and their families to downtown Phoenix from Aug. 15-20.
It is a time-honored tradition for the nation’s Commander in Chief to address the VFW National Convention, which advances issues important to the nation’s veterans. President Obama will speak to convention attendees Monday after spending the weekend visiting some of the West’s national parks, including Arizona’s Grand Canyon.
Obama also visited Greater Phoenix in February (when he discussed his economic-stimulus package in Mesa) and May (when he gave the commencement address at Arizona State University in Tempe).
But this will be the president’s first public appearance in downtown Phoenix, where the newly expanded convention center, a new light-rail transportation center, a new 1,000-room hotel and ASU’s growing downtown campus have transformed the urban landscape.
“When the president visits an event like this, it brings international exposure to downtown Phoenix and the changes it’s undergone over the last several years,” said Kevin Kamenzind, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing for the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The president’s appearance, and the scope of the VFW National Convention itself, is a testament to convention center’s capabilities — just as the NBA All-Star Game and NRA convention were earlier this year.”
The Phoenix Convention Center was the site of the fan-friendly NBA All-Star Jam Session in February, and it played host to the National Rifle Association’s Annual Convention and Exhibits in May. An estimated 100,000 basketball fans passed through the convention center during the weeklong NBA event, while more than 60,000 delegates attended the NRA’s convention.
The Greater Phoenix CVB estimates that the 12,000-plus veterans and Ladies Auxiliary delegates who attend the VFW National Convention will generate $17 million in direct spending for the local economy.
“In these economic times, to have this kind of convention taking place in downtown Phoenix — especially in the middle of summer, which is our off-peak season — is a real coup for us and a big boon for our downtown hotels and restaurants,” Kamenzind said.
Arizona legislators who will join President Obama in addressing the delegates will be Gov. Janice Brewer, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, and Rep. Harry Mitchell.
The VFW National Convention includes exhibits, business sessions, a daily health fair, a memorial motorcycle ride and a patriotic rally. The VFW will recognize several supporters of veterans’ causes, including astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Scott Carpenter, former Major League Baseball player Rick Monday, singer and actress Connie Stevens, and former Air Force general and CIA Director Michael Hayden.
The VFW National Convention is a closed event, but for the first time ever the public is invited to watch live streaming video of convention activities www.vfw.org starting at 8 a.m., Aug. 17-20.
For more information about Greater Phoenix and the Phoenix Convention Center, visit www.visitphoenix.com.