Whether you are a visitor to the Downtown area trying to find a parking spot, a new resident in search of a security escort to your car, or a local looking for a new hotspot to frequent, the Downtown Phoenix Ambassadors can help.
Perhaps you’ve noticed these boosters in bright orange — you know, the ones wearing the shirts that announce, “Ambassador, Ask Me” on the back.
According to Ambassador Program Manager Samantha Jackson, the Downtown Phoenix Ambassador program, formerly called the Copper Square Ambassadors, began in 2001 as a safety program. It has since evolved into more of a hospitality service. The Ambassadors try to make someone’s day, she says, whether that someone is a visitor to the area, an ASU student, a Downtown employee or a resident.
“We go beyond the typical concierge service,” Jackson adds. “It is the goal of every Ambassador to go above and beyond the call of duty; and you just never know how we can help, which is why our motto is ‘Questions? Ask Us!’”
The Ambassadors work the Downtown area 365 days a year, from 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends. They offer a bevy of services that include recommending a great new restaurant (and even calling the place to see if there is a wait) and giving directions to jumping a car battery or helping someone find their car when they can’t remember where they parked.
The program works closely with the Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau (GPCVB) to ensure it is heavily staffed during major events and conventions.
“Convention guests are some of the people who need the Ambassadors the most,” Jackson says.
The Ambassadors often take a table inside the conventions held Downtown, so they can be of added assistance.
“We try to meet any special requests the CVB may have, because we know that our service could be that added bonus that sways delegates to select Downtown Phoenix as their destination,” Jackson adds.
Doug MacKenzie, director of communications for the GPCVB, says he hasn’t seen a program to the extent of the Downtown Phoenix Ambassadors in any other city.
“It is truly one of a kind,” he says. “They are true ambassadors in every form of the word. They are on the forefront, greeting our guests from all over the place, and they are the prime example that our hospitality is as warm as our weather.”
And it’s no coincidence that the Ambassadors are friendly, in addition to being knowledgeable about everything pertaining to Downtown. Jackson says the program has been very lucky when it comes to its staff members, who all really believe in the Downtown area and love to promote it.
“We have taken the program from meet-and-greet to really having specialized jobs,” Jackson says.
She calls one staff member the First Responder Ambassador for helping the homeless in the Downtown area by collecting clothes, checking in on them when needed, and maintaining a good relationship with the police in the event they need to be called in. The Ambassador program also boasts an Arizona State University liaison who promotes the Downtown area to the students, a resident liaison who pens a weekly “what’s happening” column and a streetscape supervisor.
All this adds up to a program that really wants to help Downtown Phoenix feel like a community, according to Jackson. In that vein, the program has hosted several free events, including Festive Fridays in which Ambassadors gave out food samples and gift certificates for various Downtown restaurants; Third Fridays Insiders Tour, which included tours of local art galleries, retail boutiques and restaurants and was led by Sloane Burwell, president of Artlink; a Mardi Crawl pub crawl; and a Zombie Walk around Halloween in which participants dressed like zombies and dragged through the streets of Downtown.
Beyond fun and games, Jackson is proud of the help the Ambassadors offer the people both living in and visiting the Downtown Phoenix area. One particular Ambassador became a hero to a young mom with two children. As she was getting off the light rail with her younger child in the stroller, the train took off with her four-year-old still inside. The Ambassador chased the train to its next stop and returned the child to a very relieved mother. It was all in a day’s work for a Downtown Phoenix Ambassador.
So the next time you see an orange-shirted character strolling the streets of Downtown Phoenix — ask them anything — more than likely they’ll know the answer.
Downtown Phoenix Ambassadors
- In 2007, the Ambassadors tracked 87,000 assists; in 2009 that number jumped to 94,043.
- If an Ambassador can’t be found on the streets, there are many ways to get in touch with one via the hotline (602) 495-1500, text (“ASK” to 25866) or e-mail at email@example.com.
- The Ambassador Information Center, located at 101 N. 1st Ave, Ste. 190, is open every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and offers all things Downtown, including restaurant menus, brochures, coupons, entertainment guides, information on the light rail, and more.