15 secrets of the new Denver International Airport Westin Hotel project

DENVER - The countdown is on! The new Westin Hotel at Denver International Airport is scheduled to open in about nine months -- just before Thanksgiving.

While the general public can't go inside the construction area, a team from 7NEWS put on hard hats to take a tour and find out some of the secrets behind the scenes.

Let's start with the hotel's design. 

Many people have speculated that the hotel looks like a navy ship, a cruise ship or a mustache. It's supposed to resemble a pair of wings.

Secret No. 1: The building is shaped that way because the airport needed at least 500 rooms for the hotel to be financially viable, but it can only be so high due to FAA limitations, and can only be so wide because there are roads on both sides. So a plan was created to build a hotel that might have an odd shape, but had enough space for what turned out to be 519 guest rooms, plus a convention center, transit center and plaza. DIA owns the hotel but Westin will operate it.

Here you can better see how the hotel jets over the roadway.

So how does the funky exterior design affect the inside?

Secret No. 2: All of the rooms on the angle/slanted part of the hotel are suites. This is a picture of a living room in a suite.

"The suites benefit from that design," explained Stu Williams, senior vice president for hotel and transit and special projects at DIA.

Secret No 3: While most hotels hide their columns, this hotel does not. All of the suites feature a column somewhere. In some suites, there are columns in the bathroom and the main room. This is a photo of a bathroom under construction.

You may notice that there are a lot of windows in the rooms.

Secret No. 4: Each room is the width of one window. Yes, that's one really BIG window.

And the window is the wall. Even in a standard size room like the one above, the window is the width of the room. The windows use a three pane system so guests will hear no external noises -- no planes taking off, no traffic, nothing.

Secret No. 5: If you put all the windows in the hotel side-by-side, they would cover four football fields.

Those windows give guests an impressive view of the snow-covered mountains to the west, the airport's tent-covered terminal to the north, the planes on the runways to the east and the transit center to the south.

Secret No. 6: The hotel rooms occupy only the top eight floors of the 14-story building. The first floor is the platform for the trains arriving from the 16th Street Mall in Downtown Denver. Commuter rail service is expected to start in Spring 2016.

Williams is proud to say that travelers exiting the trains will need just five to six minutes to cross the train platform, walk to the escalators and ride to airport security.

Secret No. 7: While the escalators are under wraps right now and there's scaffolding blocking the view at the top -- these escalators are actually FIVE stories high.

And you won't get bored riding the escalator. The walls will feature an art installation with crystals that create images as you ride. (We'll be back in November to check that out!)

Level 2 of the hotel is the conference center. It features 12 conference rooms, two junior ballrooms and one grand ballroom. The grand ballroom has space for about 800 people standing or about 300 people in banquet seating, depending on the configuration.

And unlike many conference centers that are in the basement of the hotel, this conference center is on the second floor.

Level 3 of the building is mechanical and the location of secret No. 8. It's so secret, we don't have a photo of it. But we're told the tracks for the airport's internal trains that take passengers from the terminal to the concourses were extended into the hotel.

"That makes room for additional trains and to run the trains on both sides," Williams said. "That increases capacity by 30 percent."

Secret No. 8a: IF the airport ever expands and adds another processing area/terminal, the tracks could be extended from the hotel, on the level above the commuter rail transit center, to another building. But that's years away!

Level 4 of the building is security and Level 5 is the plaza. The plaza is the big, open outdoor area between the hotel and the terminal.

Secret No. 9: The plaza is the size of a football field and two basketball courts with some room left over. The goal of the plaza is to have events there that will draw people from the metro area to come to the airport. They can take the train, enjoy a concert or event, and spend the night or take the train back home.

Inside the hotel, on the plaza level, will be two restaurants and an area for grab-and-go food.

Secret No. 10: While everyone is talking about the plaza, there's another outdoor space on the other side of the hotel, on that same floor.

This deck, on the south side of the hotel, will have seating for the two restaurants and will feature views of the transit station below.

Secret No. 11: If you look closely at the transit center, you may notice it's not centered in that space. Williams said the tracks are off-center to leave room for future expansion.

Secret No. 12: The excavation of this area created a lot of dirt -- 1.5 million cubic yards. That's enough to fill Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium two and a half times.

The dirt is still on DIA's property. Airport officials said the dirt will be used for future runways and taxiways.

Outside the hotel we have three more secrets.

Secret No. 13: The bridges. You may remember some recent detours at the airport because of the hotel project. Officials had to reconstruct the Level 5 bridges for the plaza project.

However, they also decided to reconstruct the bridges on Level 4 and Level 6 for three reasons -- the bridges were halfway past their useful life, it was a good idea for the ultimate development of DIA and it better aligned the bridges, Williams said.

Because there are bridges on both sides of the terminal -- a total of six bridges were reconstructed.

Secret No. 14: What's that funky area in the middle of the hotel, the curved area that's a different color? On one side of the hotel that's the pool and spa. On the other side, it's the fitness center.

Secret No. 15: While some people say the hotel blocks the view of the airport's iconic tents, Williams says the tents from the terminal are reflected in the hotel's exterior.

"When you’re in the terminal, you can actually see a reflection of the tent," Williams said. "Which before, you were just inside the tent."

 

Enjoy this article? Have suggestions for where else we should go to uncover Colorado's great secrets and stories? Email Deb at Debbie@TheDenverChannel.com.

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