The offices of Visit Glendale are relocating from downtown to the Westgate Entertainment District to be in the thick of tourism and convention business.

Glendale City Manager Kevin Phelps said the move was planned for March 1, and the West Valley’s convention and visitors bureau will share the space with AEG Facilities, the company currently managing Gila River Arena.

Glendale City Manager Kevin Phelps

“Being right there in that area, to be able to meet with the marketing staff from the stadiums and the venues, to be able to work with the Renaissance Phoenix Glendale Hotel & Spa and convention center … we think that’s the right place to be,” Phelps said.

The city will also be establishing a second visitors’ center in the area, but Phelps said the move is more about getting convention bureau staff closer to the hotels and venues that are driving economic growth for the city.

“I believe an organization like a CVB needs to be highly relational,” Phelps said. “You need to understand who all the players are.”

Visit Glendale’s move to the new location is part of a bigger strategy: A vision for the city that Phelps said he began laying out to the staff about a year ago.

A broader vision

When Phelps was appointed as the top executive for Glendale in November 2016, the city council wanted him to take a closer look at some specific items, with Visit Glendale being one of them.

The convention bureau was functioning as a merchant manager for the downtown area, a role that didn’t make sense from an economic development perspective, Phelps said.

“No fault to them. I think they were trying to help and trying to do good things, but I think it really took their eye off the focus of what we need to do to attract major conventions and tourism activities here in the area,” Phelps said.

Shifting that focus has been a multi-step process, Phelps said, beginning with the creation of a new partnership with Glendale’s Chamber of Commerce.

A new partnership to revitalize downtown

Glendale Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Robert W. Heidt, Jr. said there are multiple groups working to make downtown successful, including the convention and visitors bureau, but there’s been a need for clarity and organization to make sure resources are being used in the best way possible.

He began talking with city officials more than four years ago to ensure the city and chamber weren’t duplicating efforts, but a partnership didn’t begin to take shape until after Phelps was appointed city manager.

Last year, the chamber was tasked with providing a downtown merchant manager, and it hired Katy Engels as director of downtown development.

“I sat down and I talked to the merchants and property owners and kind of got the history and the feel for downtown and what their visions were,” Engels said.

Engels will serve as a liaison for downtown stakeholders, working to improve communication and cooperation within the downtown core, Heidt said. She will also be a single point of contact for business owners in their dealings with the city.

“Basically, we’re going to be delivering what I would say is a concierge, white-glove service to those businesses that are here today and those that are yet to come that will be unlike what they’ll receive in any other community throughout the Valley,” Heidt said.

Phelps said relocating Visit Glendale will give Engels the opportunity to be successful in her new role as a downtown merchant manager.

It will also put Visit Glendale in the best position to refocus its efforts, Phelps said.

Heads and beds

A typical convention and visitors bureau focuses on conventions, tourism and visitors, Phelps said.

“As a rule, I think that 85 percent of your organization’s activities and efforts should be focused primarily on conventions and tourism, probably in that order,” Phelps said. “The reason why I break it down that way is that typically you want your focus to be on heads and beds.”

Doing so, Phelps said, puts an emphasis on attracting overnight stays to the city, which contributes to the “bed tax,” a revenue stream that generates approximately $2.7 million per year for Glendale. There’s also the added benefit of providing a steady supply of new customers for the city’s restaurants and retail shops, Phelps said.

Previously, too much effort was being put into promoting events designed for area visitors, as opposed to increasing the number of room nights booked in Glendale hotels, he said.

“Our team works really hard, but you have to continue to evolve in a changing market, and this market’s changing a lot,” Phelps said. “This is the next step of evolving to be a really important player in the tourism and overnight-stay business in the area.”

Economic engine

Visit Glendale also will benefit from the energy and growth of Westgate and its surroundings, Phelps said.

“If we’re working with a potential site selector, to be at Westgate and to see the energy and the excitement of what we have to offer from a location of freeways to the amenities in the area, we think it would do a better job than if you brought them downtown,” he said.

In addition to the Gila River Arena and University of Phoenix Stadium, there are a half-dozen hotels within walking distance and more than 20 restaurants and bars within the Westgate Entertainment District, said Jeff Teetsel, development manager of Westgate Entertainment District.

Teetsel said Visit Glendale’s move will be positive for both Westgate and the city.

“We are, I think, a significant economic engine and showcase for the City of Glendale,” Teetsel said.

Phelps agreed and said he wants to focus on strategies that fill up hotel rooms and add value to the investments that are there.

“Arguably, there’s not an area in the state of Arizona where more sports and entertainment is taking place than within the Westgate Entertainment District, and we want to continue to build on that,” Phelps said.