Phoenix upgrades to help city compete more for conventions

The Phoenix area just made $2 billion in upgrades that will help it compete for conventions and trade shows with venues such as Las Vegas.

The magazine Tradeshow Week reported Friday that the Phoenix area recently completed a $600 million expansion of the Phoenix Convention Center and a $1.4 billion light rail system that will connect it to downtown, Sky Harbor Airport and neighboring cities of Tempe and Mesa.

"This beautiful new convention center allows Phoenix to attract large conventions our previous facility could not accommodate, and light rail opens up a new world of dining and entertainment possibilities for attendees of those conventions," Kevin Kamenzind of the Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau told the magazine.

The timing couldn't be worse for Las Vegas.

Convention business here is down by double-digit percentage points, the Las Vegas Monorail is on track toward bankruptcy and doesn't even go to McCarran International Airport, let alone downtown or neighboring cities.

Phoenix booster say the new convention center there has capabilities to accommodate more than 80 percent of the conventions taking place in the United States. It will attract about 70 groups with 288,000 attendees this year, they say.

That's still well behind Las Vegas, which attracts more than 800,000 convention attendees during its busiest month and 5.8 million through the first 11 months of 2008.