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 Opened in 1962, the Hyatt Newporter Receives $13 million Remodel; 
Owner Sunstone Gives the 403 room Hotel New Name -
 Hyatt Regency Newport Beach

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By Sherri Cruz

November, 2004 - The lush 26-acre resort’s $13 million renovation is set for completion this month. The Hyatt has been working on the makeover since last November.

Changes at the AAA-rated three-diamond hotel include a new name—Hyatt Regency Newport Beach—and the remodeling of its 403 guest rooms and 6,700-square-foot ballroom.

Other additions include a lobby bar and Sandbar Lounge with fire pit-lined outdoor seating in a bid to draw more locals.

The hotel opened in 1962 as the Newporter Inn on the site of the original Boy Scout Jamboree.

The resort once was a hotspot for Hollywood celebrities and a hangout for John Wayne.

But years of wear took a toll on the resort.

“The hotel was tired,” said Bruce Brainerd, general manager. “Everyone knew it. We just needed money.”

Brainerd said the hotel’s revolving ownership limited money for improvements.

Following a strong 2000—one of the best ever in the hotel industry, Brainerd said—the terrorist attacks hit tourism hard. Meanwhile, competition flowered with new high-end coastal resorts opening, including the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa in Dana Point, Montage Resort & Spa in Laguna Beach, Balboa Bay Club & Resort and Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa angling for vacation business.

Two years ago, San Clemente-based Sunstone Hotel Investors Inc. stepped in and bought the hotel for $35 million from Dallas-based Wyndham Hotels as part of a multi-hotel buy with partner Westbrook Hotel Partners IV LLC.

Sunstone came in with plans to renovate, Brainerd said.

The company, which raised $359 million in an initial public offering last month, buys and renovates upscale hotels. It owns 54 hotels, including some under the Hyatt, Hilton, InterContinental, Marriott, Holiday Inn and Wyndham names.

Hyatt and Sunstone worked together to come up with a makeover plan that would match Hyatt’s “Regency” quality standards, Brainerd said. Hyatt has managed the hotel since 1989.

Brainerd calls the hotel’s layout and look “classic early California, low-profile building architecture.” The resort’s guests want the lush tropical feeling, he said.

The hotel boasts more than 75 types of palms.

Each room has been completely redone with a simple, classic look.

Sol restaurant, formerly Jamboree Grill, was gutted and remodeled. It now serves world island cuisine.

The Sandbar lounge, formerly a bar called Knuckles, has Adirondack chairs surrounding a fire pit.

The Sandbar is for the vacationer, while the lobby lounge is for the corporate customer, Brainerd said.

One of the last things to be changed is the green street sign that marks the entrance to the hotel on Jamboree Road near Pacific Coast Highway.

It will be changed to reflect the new name.

Future plans under consideration include replacing a 5-acre, par-3 golf course with timeshare units, and building a new 12,000-square-foot meeting room.

Brainerd said most Newport Beach hotels were built 20 to 30 years ago and lack ballroom or meeting space equipped with modern sound and visual gear.

“We’ve been watching many groups move outside of Newport,” he said.

The Hyatt spends about $1.3 million annually in renovation projects, Brainerd said. It’s permitted for up to 85 more units, he said.

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Sandi Cain is a freelance writer and contributor to the Orange County Business Journal and meetings industry publications. She specializes in hospitality, tourism and travel. Cain holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from Kent State University in Ohio, where she majored in social studies. A former high school teacher, she has written for niche-market sports publications in the U.S., England and Australia and formerly worked in both the printing and high-tech industries. A Cleveland, Ohio native, Cain hasbeen a resident of Laguna Beach since the late ’70s. She enjoys travel, gardening, reading and spoiling her three cats.
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Contact:
Sandi Cain
Laguna Beach CA
949-497-2680
scainado@earthlink.net

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Tony Bruno, VP and General Manager of Disneyland Resort Hotels, Maps Out 2004 Changes / Sandi Cain / March 2004
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Tourism Industry Rethinks Promotion on Security Issues Data / Sandi Cain / February 2004
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Sunstone Hotel Investors LLC and Tarsadia Hotels Expanding by Going After Weaker Hotels in Key Markets / Sandi Cain / June 2003
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Budget Ax Threatens Orange County's Tourism Comeback / Sandi Cain / February 2003
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Orange County Travel Agencies Bear Brunt Last Week, Waiting For Fallout / Sandi Cain / Sept 2001 
St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa Opening Adds to Competition in South Orange County California / Sandi Cain / Aug 2001 
The Orange Riviera - New Luxury Hotels and Renovation Projects Transforming OC’s Coast / Sandi Cain / May 2001 
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