|By Karen Mracek, The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Oct. 3, 2004 - Guests who stay at Tubac Golf Resort every year are in for a big surprise this winter.
They will encounter the first stage of a five-year, $40 million project to renovate the resort.
"They are really going to be amazed at what's been going on," said Rod Siler, president of the 45-year-old resort. "Even if you are gone only two weeks, something has changed when you come back." Some of the new amenities include a new guest-services center, a reinvented Stables Restaurant and Bar and a redesigned golf course.
That is just the beginning of the renovation project. By next spring, there will be 23 new casitas and a new conference center encompassing a total of 7,000 square feet -- including a 2,700-square-foot ballroom. Five years from now, there will be nine more holes of golf, an 8,000-square-foot spa and an 80-seat Mexican restaurant, named Dos Silos after two retired grain silos.
The completed project will have 125 guest rooms.
Developer Ron Allred bought the resort in 2002. Previously, he owned the Telluride Ski & Golf Co. in Telluride, Colo., and helped guide it to the status of a four-season destination resort. He hopes to do the same thing in Tubac.
"Ron loves beautiful places," said Siler. "He understands that you have to build quality." The first phase of the renovation, covering the core of the resort and costing almost $18 million, should be complete next spring. Then development will begin on an additional 250 acres to the south, which abuts Tubac's artisan village. The resort will ultimately cover about 625 acres.
Tubac Golf Resort lies 30 miles south of Tucson and is centered on the Otero family ranch, granted by the king of Spain in 1789. The resort is surrounded by the Santa Rita and Tumacacori mountain ranges, something that is never far from Siler's mind.
"As we grow, the main issue is how to enhance the property and do it respectfully," said Siler, who is admittedly brushing up on his colonial Spanish history.
One way the resort has tried to preserve its historic local feel has been to hire area artisans. One of them is Art Flores, owner of the Tumacacori Mesquite Sawmill.
His company provided the wood for countertops, lockers, entertainment centers, a bar and wine station.
"We kind of gave it a real rustic look to work with their theme of the old Southwest," Flores said. "We tried to maintain that Otero ranch look." The sawmill's work at the resort has lasted 18 months already and will go on another year or two, he said.
From saddle barstools to branding irons, antique touches are everywhere in the newly renovated areas of the resort.
"If you go out into the hinterland of our country and try to create a year-round resort, as opposed to metropolitan areas or major population centers, you need to have some things going for you," Allred said in a press release. "There are a lot of people in our country that get turned on by history. And I'm one of them." Visitors also will be reminded of the resort's ranch history when they see cows grazing alongside the golf course.
"We believe the experience here will be the thousand little things that come together," Siler said.
Those little things will add up to higher prices for guests in the coming years. Prices are already up 15 percent since Siler took over in late 2003, and he expects them to increase another 10 percent in the coming year.
"Room rates hadn't gone up in years," he said. "We have got some catching up to do." Currently, the 800-square-foot casitas range $125 to $245 per night and rooms run from $95 to $195.
Siler doesn't think this will affect the number of repeat customers. At least two-thirds of guests book their next trip to the resort before they check out, he said.
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