Officials in Aurora have approved an incentive package to help build an $800 million, Western-themed hotel and entertainment complex.
The package was unanimously backed by city councilors on Monday and is worth up to $300 million.
Gaylord Entertainment -- which owns the Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville -- is behind the project near Denver International Airport. CEO Colin Reed made the announcement in Aurora on Tuesday.
According to a news release, the hotel and resort would have 1,500 rooms, 400,000 square feet of exhibition and meeting space, and a dramatic atrium setting offering panoramic views of the full Rocky Mountain vista, from Longs Peak down to Pikes Peak.
It would be located on 85 acres less than 10 minutes from Denver International Airport.
"What is interesting is this region here has gone from in the 15th type desire to want to go to in the 7th, 8th in the country now. And that's one of the reasons we like this neck of the woods," Reed said. "The downtown Convention Center in Denver need not worry about what we're doing here in Aurora."
Reed showed statistics from other cities where Gaylord added massive hotel resorts showing that city convention centers saw an increase in business after Gaylord arrived.
"The idea is to build here, pick all these lovely customers up and bring them into this market," Reed said, adding the large groups they do business represent customers that don't come to Colorado now, but want to go west.
It was a three year process, pitting Aurora against Broomfield and Commerce City, Reed said of their search for a site location.
At Tuesday's announcement, he credited Aurora Mayor Ed Tauer's tenacity.
"You know, every time we would err into Commerce City somehow he'd find out about it and he'd drag us back to Aurora," Reed said.
Tauer called the deal a "once in a lifetime opportunity".
"It's not just going to be a two or three year thing. But that 20-30 years from now, (it) will still be a magnet for your community. And that's what Gaylord brings," Tauer said. "We're thrilled that it came to Aurora. But it's really it's something that should benefit our entire metro area."
Tauer said the city expects to recoup the tax incentives given to Gaylord through the 1,800 permanent jobs the hotel is expected to generate and through luring new tourism dollars to the area.
"So it's really all those things that's going to bring additional money into the city. And none of those are included in the incentive plan," Tauer said.
The company hopes to break ground on construction in mid-to-late 2012 and expects the resort to be open for business in mid-to-late 2015.
This hotel would be largest in metro Denver, eclipsing the downtown Denver Sheraton, currently the city's largest hotel, with 1,231 rooms, 82 suites and 133,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space.
The National Western Stock Show & Rodeo is expected to move to a facility near the planned complex. However, stock show organizers and Gaylord don't have a deal or a contract yet.
"We are thrilled by the prospect of a Gaylord property in the Denver market, which has fast become one of the most desirable tourist and business travel destinations in the United States and a destination of choice for meeting planners and conventions," Reed said in a statement. "Our loyal customers who return over and over again to our existing properties have been telling us for some time that they would love to be able to replicate the Gaylord experience in a market in the Western region of the United States. We believe that this is the perfect location for meeting that demand."
Gaylord currently has four upscale, meetings-focused resorts near Nashville, Tenn,; Orlando, Fla.; Dallas, Texas; and Washington, D.C.
"When you see the quality and service at a Gaylord property you understand why they get so much repeat business. This project will bring thousands of new visitors to Colorado," said Aurora Mayor Ed Tauer. "The community benefits are awesome. Our top priority is jobs, and this brings over 1,800 new jobs with a great employer."
Under the agreement with the city of Aurora, the city pledges to collect virtually all of the new taxes generated by the Gaylord Resort and Convention Center and reinvest them into the project. Components of the financial plan will require agreement by additional local jurisdictions and selection by the state of Colorado as a recipient of funds from the recently enacted Regional Tourism Act. Over the next 12 months Gaylord will have to work with city, county and state officials to secure the necessary approvals required for the incentive plan and for construction to commence.
Gaylord has selected Colorado-based Hensel Phelps Construction Co. as the general contractor for the project.
"We are in the very early stages of planning and will make certain that any project we pursue is done so under the appropriate economic conditions and provides the appropriate returns for our shareholders," said Reed. "We are pleased to work with the city of Aurora, Adams County and the state of Colorado on the next steps of this project and look forward to becoming a valuable part of the Aurora community."
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