PHOENIX (March 19, 2009) — Seeing is believing in Phoenix.

Such was the mindset behind the largest customer event ever hosted by the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau, which showed off Phoenix’s dramatically revitalized downtown district to nearly 40 meeting professionals last week.

Meeting planners from across the nation toured the newly expanded Phoenix Convention Center and stayed at the new 1,000-room Sheraton Phoenix Downtown hotel. The planners also rode the city’s new $1.4 billion light-rail system to nearby restaurants, museums and off-site event venues.

“The public grand opening for our new convention center took place in December; this event was the grand opening for the professionals who use the building and know the meeting business,” said Steve Moore, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix CVB. “Most of them had heard about how downtown Phoenix has changed, but when you’ve gone through this kind of amazing metamorphosis, it’s better to show than tell.”

The meeting planners in attendance represented $300 million in potential direct spending for Phoenix. Some had not yet booked groups in Phoenix, while others were considering bringing business back to the city. But all of them bore witness to a Phoenix they had never seen before.

The centerpiece of Phoenix’s new-and-improved convention package is the Phoenix Convention Center, which welcomed its first meeting groups in January following a $650 million expansion. The 2.7-million-square-foot facility features sweeping architecture inspired by the Grand Canyon and practical infrastructure designed with both its users and the environment in mind.

The meeting planners who toured the convention center Friday learned about its LEED-certified pedigree, and got a firsthand look at green initiatives such as a water-harvesting garden that converts condensation from the building’s heating and cooling system into irrigation water for landscaping.

“You can talk ‘green’ all you want, but when you can physically sip a smoothie made from local produce while you sit in a chair made from recycled car batteries and seat belts at a table covered with a tablecloth made out of plastic bottles, the practicality of being green really resonates,” Moore said.

The meeting planners also got an eyeful of the $3.2 million worth of public art that adorns the convention center’s campus, as well as user-friendly features such as exhibit halls with pre-scored floors, loading bays with air conditioning and customizable digital signage.

The meeting planners began their tour of the convention center with an outdoor welcome reception hosted by Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon. They concluded it by boarding a sleek light-rail train for a short ride to the Phoenix Art Museum, whose recent $50 million renovation makes it one of downtown Phoenix’s most elegant settings for off-site dinners and events.

Light rail, which happened to be bustling with delegates to a current convention during the planners’ tour, is a huge boon for prospective meeting groups. It connects downtown Phoenix denizens to a new realm of dining and entertainment possibilities, and provides transport to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport — all for $1.25 per one-way ride.

The entire convention sales staff at the Greater Phoenix CVB participated in hosting last week’s customer event. Visit for enhanced meetings information.