The meetings market is front and center for Marriott in Colorado, where Connect recently visited Marriott Convention & Resort Network’s member hotels: the Denver Marriott Tech Center, Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel, Vail Marriott Mountain Resort, and the soon-to-open Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center.
The foursome displayed a mountain full of meetings and convention chops including their latest in food and beverage innovations, new and renovated meeting and guest rooms, public space and access to prime local attractions. Here’s what we found:
Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center
On schedule to open in late 2018, the Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center in Aurora is set to be a game changer for the Denver-area meetings landscape. This majestic 1,501-room resort is 10 minutes from Denver International Airport and about 30 minutes from the Mile-High City’s downtown. The resort is Gaylord’s first property built in the last decade, first mountain property and farthest west in location. Planners will be delighted to find outsize amenities to match the grand size of this spacious new kid in town. Upon opening, the resort will be the largest hotel by room-count in the state of Colorado, with the grounds spanning across 85 acres. Sweeping views of the Rockies, 485,000 square feet of flex-space, five outdoor event spaces, 81 tech-advanced breakouts and conference rooms, and a 175,000-sq.-ft. exhibition hall are amongst the staggering array of conference utility planners find here. Eight dining options appeal to a broad spectrum of guest tastes and include: Gaylord’s signature Old Hickory Steakhouse, Italian fare at Vista Montague, and Monte Jade, an Asian fusion restaurant and sushi bar. Sports enthusiasts get their game on at the Mountain Pass Sports Bar, featuring Colorado’s largest HD screen, a 75-by-14-feet behemoth that is right at home in this gathering place where the flooring is imprinted with football, baseball, basketball and other sports platforms. “We are a particularly attractive option for national groups who rotate between our geographies across the U.S,” says Deanne French, director of marketing. French notes that groups with dispersed populations like the option of switching up regional locales. Gaylord Rockies provides a western mountain option supplementing Gaylord’s Opryland (Nashville, Tennessee), Palms (Kissimmee, Florida), National (National Harbor, Maryland) and the Texan (Grapevine, Texas). Most impressive are the dual 35,000-sq.-ft. ballrooms. These mirror image spaces have not a single column or pillar between them due to special construction and ceiling supports. The resulting open sight-lines allow for unique configurations and easier room navigation. A full-service spa, salon, fitness center and boutiques are also among the resort’s amenities. With nearby pre- and post-meeting recreational offerings such as Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre, Garden of the Gods, river rafting, mountain biking, skiing, whitewater rafting and more, this Rockies destination is sure to be high on planners’ lists. Denver Marriott Tech Center “Our goal is for the Denver Marriott Tech Center to be experienced as a destination to come to, not through,” says Scott Boyer, director of sales and marketing. “We’re delivering customized personal experiences for our guests whether it is hiking in the mountains, connecting with our partner Topgolf, or enjoying special amenities that we have here on property such as our Oxygen Bar.” Denver Tech Center is a hive of activity in the metro-area’s southeast corridor, dotted with startups and corporate tech titans. Boyer notes the Denver Marriott Tech Center, about 30 minutes from both DIA and downtown Denver, just underwent a $65 million renovation with guestrooms, public areas and meeting space all updated. The hotel serves as a corporate property for many of the area’s businesses and offers five extended stay residences. The meeting mix is heavy here, where planners find 605 rooms, 53,000 square feet of meeting space (28 event rooms with 17 breakouts and capacity to host up to 1500), a state-of-the-art fitness center, local art, and airy, open space. Food and beverage take on a distinctive Colorado feel here with Pint Brothers Alehouse serving as the anchor restaurant serving American classics, local beers and handcrafted cocktails.
Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel
General Manager Tony Dunn and his team are taking the stalwart Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel to new levels of guest experience with several initiatives underway, including a phased room renovation beginning later this year. “Our goal is to be a connection place in the community which is right in line with Sheraton’s mission and new rebranding initiative,” says Dunn, “This property has a long history of being a central community gathering place stretching back to 1959 when the I.M. Pei designed the property, originally a Hilton Hotel and the former May—D&F Department Store.” Today, the two buildings comprise the Sheraton and are connected by a walkway that spans over the busy Court Place. The hotel is the largest convention property in downtown Denver, situated on the 16th Street Mall in the heart of the financial and business district, within easy walking distance to Colorado Convention Center. Planners find 1,231 rooms and suites; 133,000 square feet of flexible event space; 58 meeting rooms; and amenities including a heated rooftop pool, full fitness center and several on-site restaurants. Dunn hosted Connect at the newly opened underground “Speakeasy” developed at the property. The retro-style 1920’s cocktail bar is accessed through a private elevator. “The project was a bit of a surprise to me,” says Dunn of the clubby lounge that can host groups of around 50. “Our building engineers used the area for storage and asked about repurposing the space. When I first saw what they’d done, I was blown away. The first gathering we had was an employee party.” Connect’s visit took us into Chef Scott Skomal’s Test Kitchen, an integral part of meeting planners’ advance prep, where the team demonstrated how they execute an individually driven breakfast menu for groups. Place-card menus have three columns with Style (poached, healthy sweet or surprise me), Fillers (bacon, elk sausage, berries, mushrooms, tomato, peppers, Nutella and mascarpone), and Additions (Hollandaise, green chili, goat cheese, arugula salad and hash browns). Each guest in our group had their own creation, from omelets and poached eggs upon heirloom tomatoes to Nutella French Toast, all garnering rave reviews. Special cocktails are the rage here and Skomal’s team is happy to create custom drinks for groups using freshly squeezed juices, house-made shrubs and mixes. Grilled Grapefruit Palomas is just one tasty option. Our trip to the back of the house gave us another peek at how the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel is excelling in hospitality scores. Employee bulletin boards were littered with guest accolades, notes and cards praising above and beyond service. “It’s our people that make the difference,” says Dunn. A sentiment every planner can attest to, and a point of differentiation for the Marriott CRN.
Vail Marriott Mountain Resort
This handsome mountain property sits at the base of Vail Mountain with access via the Lionshead gondola, a three-minute walk away. The hotel, a recent addition to Marriot CRN, has just completed a full room and meeting space renovation and offers groups 350 rooms, 25,000 square feet of events space, including the largest ballroom in Vail Valley at 8,286 square feet, three dining facilities serving up casual fare, local microbrews and relaxed settings to share stories of the day’s adventures. “Location is a major attraction for us,” says Patrick Davis, director of sales and marketing. “But we also deliver on amenities for our groups and guests that offer value and utility. We have a retail facility and [outfitter] on-site for ski rentals (mountain bikes in the summer months). We provide ski valet for all our groups. We have a large repeat base of group business, ranking in the ten percent of Marriott event satisfaction scores.” Davis attributes the high satisfaction scores to the fact that the property stays open year-round attracting and retaining some of the best staff in the Vail Valley, a key component in servicing their guests. During the winter months group sizes range from 100 to 150, according to Davis. Many are professional groups pursuing continuing education programs such as physician and legal groups who may have classes in the morning and hit the slopes after lunch. Shoulder season offers value opportunities. Davis notes the property has hosted many faith-based groups and SMERF groups. Groups find plenty of nearby recreational, entertainment and dining activities in Vail and Lionshead villages. The hotel can arrange for 4-by-4 off-road exploring, mountain biking, cycling and fly fishing. Want to get atop the mountain? There’s no better way to experience the summer months than by tackling the adventures at Epic Discovery. Guests find a heart-pumping mountain coaster, ziplines, bungee-bounce trampolines, mountain tubing (don’t knock it ‘til you try it) and breathtaking views of the surrounding Rockies.