|By Rosalie Rayburn, Albuquerque Journal, N.M.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Nov. 7, 2005 - SANDIA PUEBLO, N.M. -- It is grand in size, impressive in appearance and almost ready to welcome guests.
Sandia Pueblo's seven-story, 228-room resort hotel adjacent to Sandia Casino is scheduled to open for business Dec."1.
Visitors will arrive on a new access road, Hummingbird, from Tramway east of the casino, and be greeted by a stunning sight: the hotel's massive porte cochere, flanked by an Olympic-size swimming pool and vivid emerald golf greens.
But it's the sheer closeness of the Sandia Mountains that is most likely to make first-time visitors' jaws drop.
"The goal of the tribal council was to provide an experience you don't get at home," Sandia Pueblo Gov. Stuwart Paisano explained on a recent tour of the sprawling property.
The Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau sees the hotel complex, which will go by the name Sandia Resort & Casino, as a valuable addition to Albuquerque's offerings for tourists. "This development, paired with the existing Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa, has the potential to open doors to a whole new market that has previously been visiting other states in the Southwest for the resort experience," said bureau president and CEO Dale Lockett.
Construction on the hotel began with tribal council approval in April 2004. The nearly finished facility has 35,000 square feet of meeting space, 5,000 more than Albuquerque's Embassy Suites hotel, which opened in April.
Sandia's 28,000-square-foot main ballroom has a stage and can seat 3,000. It will do double duty for entertainers during the winter, when Sandia's outdoor amphitheater is closed.
Five smaller meeting rooms have patios overlooking the golf course. All the meeting rooms are wired for audiovisual presentations and equipped with drop-down projection screens. There is wireless Internet access in all public areas and in guest rooms.
If business is brisk, Sandia can expand the convention area, up to 45,000 square feet, Paisano said.
Sandia recently hired Sharman McBride, formerly of the Albuquerque Marriott, to promote the hotel, casino and golf course as a convention site. Sandia has already erected billboards advertising the underground parking, which has nearly 1,000 spaces.
The 228-room hotel has 30 suites with one or two bedrooms. Three 1,800-square-foot "supersize" suites will be designated for "special invited guests"; each will have a master bedroom and guest bedroom, four balconies and a large living room with wet bar. The master bathroom has a palatial Jacuzzi-style bath and a separate shower with steam.
The 1,500-square-foot two-bedroom and 900-square-foot one-bedroom suites will be available to regular guests. Regular rooms are 450 square feet.
Rooms have a mix of queen- and king-size beds. Windows have louvered wooden shutters in addition to blackout curtains. All rooms have safes, refrigerators and flat-screen TVs.
Decor throughout the hotel is in Southwest colors: rust reds, yellow ocher, grays, adobe browns and accents in blue.
Many of the ceilings have wooden vigas. Carpets and lamps bear designs by Sandia Pueblo artists.
The former Bien Shur casino restaurant has been resurrected as a rooftop dining spot, with seating for 125 plus a patio that offers breathtaking views of Balloon Fiesta Park and the Sandia Mountains.
The Bien Shur has its own elevator to whisk guests to the rooftop, where they can wait in the bar area. The menu will feature "New American Cuisine," with steak, fish and pasta dishes that use seasonal ingredients. Sandia has hired chef Jim White from the Casa Vieja in Corrales.
Guests can also try the Council Room steakhouse on the ground floor.
The new hotel offers plenty of pampering options. Its 12,500-square-foot Green Reed spa has separate splash pool and steam room areas for men and women, treatment rooms, a fitness center and a salon for manicures, pedicures and hair styling.
The pool in front of the hotel entrance has a poolside bar offering drinks and food. Guests can also have a poolside massage.
It's a short walk, or cart ride, eastward to the golf clubhouse to another restaurant, bar and pro shop. Sandia hired OB Sports Golf Management of Scottsdale, Ariz., to manage the 18-hole championship course, which opened in June.
St. Louis-based McCarthy was the contractor on the hotel. Up to 440 workers were involved during the construction phase. Sandia will have 350 people working at the hotel. The average wage will be $9.50 per hour, Paisano said. He would not say how much the hotel project cost.
The addition of the hotel, spa and convention space will bring the total number of employees at the casino site to more than 3,000, including tribal employees, he said.
Sandia will run a $99 special on regular rooms for the first week after the Dec. 1 opening. After that, room rates will range from $139 to $249. The resort will probably offer promotional rates for conventions and casino patrons, Paisano said.
Sandia has posted information about the new hotel at its Web site, www.sandiacasino.com.
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Copyright (c) 2005, Albuquerque Journal, N.M.
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