|By Garin Groff, The Tribune, Mesa,
Ariz.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
September 25, 2009 - Gaylord Entertainment's plans for a massive hotel and conference center in Mesa got a boost with an announcement that it plans to raise $380 million.
The influx of cash seems likely to help fund plans for Arizona's largest hotel on part of the former General Motors proving grounds in east Mesa.
The $1 billion resort is one of the largest projects proposed for the entire East Valley.
Gaylord's new funds could also be used to pay off debt, but Mesa leaders said the news excited them because Gaylord has emphasized that its future depends on expanding -- and Mesa is the only new project the company has announced.
"Any good financial news out of Gaylord is good news for us here in Mesa," Mayor Scott Smith said Thursday.
Gaylord's massive resorts are centered in the Southeast, and the company has said it wants to add a location in the West to accommodate the large groups that book conferences at their hotels but have asked for an additional venue.
Gaylord announced its Mesa plans last year, but it also was looking at a location near San Diego.
The company scrapped plans for the California location late last year, leaving Mesa as the only announced location it's seriously considering.
Mesa officials say that even with the deep economic slump, Mesa is likely to get the Gaylord resort because the company is serious about expanding.
"For their business model to really work, they need a Western location, and Mesa is it," Smith said.
Gaylord filed paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission this week to raise about $125 million through new stock and about $263 million in other debt.
One filing included the Mesa plans in the company's strategy.
The company plans to share some of its plans soon, a company spokesman said Thursday.
The company said it could not comment yet on its financial plans due to SEC regulations.
Mesa Councilman Scott Somers said he feels more confident about the Gaylord project after hearing about its push to raise money.
A recent study of proposed developments in the East Valley named Gaylord as one of the most likely to become reality, Somers said, and the company's additional funds only add to that likelihood.
"Now that we see this news report, we see this is the one that's going to happen," Somers said.
Gaylord is known for developing massive convention and hotel properties, and it plans to build a 1,500-room resort on about 100 acres in Mesa.
It would feature Andulusian architecture from Spain to take advantage of the dramatic backdrop provided by the nearby Superstition Mountains.
An adjacent resort would sit on 25 acres and a golf course would span 210 acres.
The resort would bring about 1 million visitors a year to the area and employ 4,000, company executives have said.
Tourism officials see the project as a major draw to the Valley and Arizona, and something that would boost Mesa's national name recognition.
Gaylord would likely attract significant developments around it, as some of the conventions held in its other resorts are so large that adjacent hotels are often filled with overflow guests.
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