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La Costa Resort Nearing Completion of $50 million Makeover

By Pat Maio, North County Times, Escondido, Calif.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

May 29, 2011--CARLSBAD -- In the past year, Paul McCormick has worn out three pairs of Rockport shoes by pounding the pavement around the 460-acre La Costa Resort and Spa.

"The cushioned ones work best. Leather shoes would just get torn up," said McCormick, the resort's general manager.

McCormick regularly walks around the resort briskly, scoping out progress on $50 million in construction -- all in various stages of completion -- at the sprawling Carlsbad playground for the rich. The labyrinth of 640,000 square feet of villas, suites, shops, restaurants and other facilities will get a splash of paint, new lighting, carpeting, shower stalls or bathtubs, and a general tidying up.

"I'm in every building every week," he said Thursday.

This weekend, the "Coastal Events Center" for weddings, corporate meetings and parties is opening up. A barbecue is to be held with oysters and sushi served up to kick off Memorial Day weekend, according to McCormick.

"The whole place will be hot," said McCormick, referring to the Wi-Fi Internet connections everywhere. The Chopra Center for Well-Being, founded by Deepak Chopra, is headquartered next door.

Last month, construction was wrapped up on renovation of 474 rooms at the resort, which provides panoramic views in some parts of the property to the Batiquitos Lagoon to the west.

"It's our ocean," McCormick said.

All of the rooms have copies of the magazines Riviera and Cigar Aficionado tossed on entryway credenzas.

Sometime over the summer, the plain-looking lobby to the main resort building will get a sports bar called Diversions, with big flat-screened televisions plastered everywhere -- including a spectacular 14-foot TV. The windows in this lobby are frosted to help hide some of the construction going on below.

In coming months, an "adult pool" with Jacuzzis that overlooks its Legends and Champions golf courses will be built. That's what's located "below" Diversions. Last week, there were concrete mixers running, stacks of piping lying about, and dust blowing.

The pampered will eventually get to bask in the sun while watching golf on the PGA-caliber courses. The water slide to the north of the adult pool will get a huge wall built between this family pool area and the area where adults can be kids.

The courses are being ripped up. People can't play on the lengthened 7,900-yard, 18-hole Champions course these days. This course -- as well as the adjacent 7,100-yard, 18-hole Legends -- is packed with bulldozers, workers digging trenches to install new sprinkler systems, and gardeners adding native grasses and other plants to about 40 acres to cut down on water usage.

A muddy pond on the Champions links will get turned into a lake, and "family" tees are being added to make the golf experience more inviting for younger children as well.

McCormick is overseeing the overhaul of the mission-styled resort, which private equity giant KSL Capital Partners LLC paid $125 million early last year to buy from Goldman Sachs' Whitehall Street Global Real Estate LP.

KSL had injected $150 million into renovation work at the property when it owned the resort in the early- to mid-2000s. The resort was sold to the Goldman Sachs real estate unit Whitehall just as the economy began to tank. La Quinta-based KSL got it back a year ago.

The resort has always attracted a Hollywood crowd along with big names from the sports world.

It was founded in 1965 by Merv Adelson, one of the backers of television production company Lorimar -- a name itself derived by Adelson combining the name of his ex-wife, Lori, with (McClellan-) Palomar Airport in Carlsbad.

Mariah Carey, Black Eyed Peas singer Fergie, football star Steve Young, basketball great Magic Johnson, and tennis stars Martina Navratilova and Maria Sharapova, all have stopped by for overnight stays. The spa is ranked the best in California by Spa magazine.

Old timers may be shocked to find the Tournament of Champions nightclub -- where Frank Sinatra crooned love songs with Rat Pack crew Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin -- is history. In its place is an athletic club where visitors can work out on treadmills and other fitness equipment.


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Copyright (c) 2011, North County Times, Escondido, Calif.

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