The Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center, the largest hotel in Colorado, plans to grow by more than 20% as part of an $80 million, 317-room expansion.
The Aurora-based hotel will begin construction in the second quarter of 2020, according to the Thursday announcement, and be finalized in early 2022. Once complete, the 85-acre resort will offer more than 1,800 rooms.
“We take great pride in Gaylord Rockies creating a best-in-class large meeting destination for the state of Colorado,” said Ira Mitzner, head of Houston-based RIDA Development, which will oversee the project. “To date, nearly 80 percent of the groups at Gaylord Rockies had never met in Colorado before. We are truly growing the pie for this state.”
The project mirrors similar expansions at the Gaylord Texan and Gaylord Palms, Mitzner said. With more rooms, the resort and conference center will allow for the accommodation of additional demand for this property in a way that “seamlessly integrates” into the hotel’s current infrastructure.
“Since the very beginning of this project we have said that the Gaylord Rockies would be an incredible economic development catalyst for the City of Aurora, Adams County and the State of Colorado,” said Wendy Mitchell, who leads the Aurora Economic Development Council. “The quick timing of an expansion further proves that this has come to fruition and means even more positive impact for the region as we see significant development being catalyzed in the surrounding area.”
Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman said the facility is one of the city’s most significant accomplishments and a major driver of its economy, helping the city make a name for itself.
“When we look at the economic development success story here, it’s clear that it is a win-win for everyone involved especially for our residents, who now have the opportunity of more than 1,500 quality jobs and counting that were created through this deal,” he said in a statement.
The Gaylord Rockies opened in December 2018, just south of Denver International Airport, but not without challenges.
“It was a rough voyage, especially at the beginning,” Mitzner told The Denver Post shortly before it opened. That’s because the $800 million private project was funded by public dollars, including $300 million from Aurora and more than $81 million from the state.
Some of the obstacles the resort faced along the way included three lawsuits, a bill in the legislature intending to end the project, and demands for a state audit of its incentives.
But since its debut, the hotel has experienced “strong demand,” closing the third quarter of 2019 with nearly 1.2 million net group room nights on the books for future years, a more than 7% increased compared to the same period in 2018.
“The initial performance at Gaylord Rockies has exceeded our expectations for a property in its first year of operations, and feedback from both group and leisure customers has been tremendous,” Colin Reed, chairman and chief executive officer of Ryman Hospitality Properties, said in the Thursday press release. “These early results, combined with the demand we are experiencing as large group supply remains constrained nationwide, reinforce our belief that this is the right time to increase the capacity of this hotel.”
The expansion will be financed by the joint venture that owns Gaylord Rockies with additional borrowings from its term loan, which is set to mature in July 2023. Ryman, a Nashville-based real estate investment trust, owns about 62% of the joint venture.
Altogether, Ryman owns four upscale, meetings-focused resorts totaling more than 8,000 rooms, which are managed by Marriott International under the Gaylord Hotels brand. Ryman also owns and operates media and entertainment assets, including the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.