News for the Hospitality Executive
|By Donna Hogan, The Tribune, Mesa, Ariz.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Mar. 23, 2004 - A Yavapai elder plans to bless on Wednesday a chunk of land sandwiched between the 18-hole We-Ko-Pa Golf Club and the Fort McDowell Casino, and tribal officials will use traditional digging sticks to start the foundation for a 247-room resort and conference center.
The new north East Valley resort is expected to start welcoming guests by October 2005, said Michele Crank, spokeswoman for the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation.
A neighboring recreational vehicle park will open this October, she said.
With a 2-year-old golf course that has been ranked one of the top 10 in the country by Sports Illustrated and a casino that regularly attracts Valley visitors, the Yavapai community wants to become a complete tourism destination, Crank said.
"The Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation saw the need and the opportunity to capture tourism dollars and keep them here," she said. "We hold different events throughout the year -- rodeos, powwows. We're hoping tourists will be drawn to our events, stay at our resort, play at our casino, golf course and Fort McDowell Adventures," an outdoor cookout and Western entertainment venue.
The resort, which Crank said is designed to achieve a four-diamond level of luxury, will have typical amenities such as a pool, fitness center and gift shops as well as the golf course. Plans also leave room for a full-service spa as a future addition, she said.
A ballroom and meeting space offering up to 23,000 square feet is a key feature, Crank said.
"With the golf and casino, we are catering to 18- to 54-year-olds, the business meetings and conventions," she said. "We expect 60 percent of the business to come from meetings and conventions. In the Fountain Hills area, there is not a lot of convention space." Crank said the resort has not been named. The Tribal Council is in discussions with Radisson and potentially might brand it that or another national name, she said.
The resort will be managed by TriStar Hotel Management Co., which operates 19 U.S. hotels, including a Best Western and Ramada Inn in Mesa, a Quality Inn in Tempe and a Chandler Comfort Inn. The council developed a hotel management course to train community members in the industry, Crank said.
"Even with the construction jobs, we will make sure Native American individuals, whether they are part of this community or not, are given preference," Crank said.
The resort's design and furnishings will reflect the Yavapai heritage, including a river-rock theme running throughout the property representing the Verde River, which nourished the Yavapai and their farms, she said.
While Valley hoteliers have complained for several years about an overabundance of local hotel rooms, industry expert Mark McDermott, a consultant to the Fountain Hills-Fort McDowell tourism bureau of the Fountain Hills Chamber of Commerce, said the far north East Valley hasn't gotten its fair share of the tourism bounty.
"For Fountain Hills-Fort McDowell, the way it is situated geographically and its products -- its natural views, growing arts and cultural products, casino, golf -- the only thing missing is the resort component. It only makes sense for the tribe and the town to find a way to capture those dollars."
Along with the expansion of the Inn at CopperWynd and plans for a Hilton resort near the Fountain Hills-Scottsdale border, the Fort McDowell resort will help define the area as a place to stay as well as play, McDermott said.
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(c) 2004, The Tribune, Mesa, Ariz. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. CD, HLT,