The developer of the 1,500-room Gaylord Rockies Hotel and Conference Center made a big splash Thursday, saying it would add a massive water park to the project near Denver International Airport.
The indoor-outdoor water park will feature multiple pools, two water slides, a lazy river and a simulated hot springs, Houston-based RIDA Development Corp. announced Thursday.
"It brings a magical connection between leisure business and group business," said Nunzio DeSantis, director of hospitality with Dallas-based HKS, the architectural firm designing the development.
The feature will add $25 million to a project with estimated costs of $750 million to $850 million, said Ira Mitzner, RIDA's president.
Gaylord is a Marriott brand focused primarily on the conference and convention business. A water amenity should encourage convention attendees to bring along family members, resulting in longer stays in Colorado, Mitzner said.
Also, most other Gaylord-branded hotels are in locales with stifling summer heat — Orlando, Fla.; Dallas; and Washington, D.C.
"You don't want to be in Dallas in August," said Mitzner, who estimates the outdoor portion of the water park, with some heating, could remain open from March to October.
He said the feature should help the Gaylord Rockies compete for its share of business from the 300 groups that rotate through the various Gaylord hotels each year, while also serving as a draw for local families.
But a representative for a group of mostly Denver hotels challenging state tax incentives for the project dismissed the news.
"This is actually a slap in the face to Colorado's taxpayers. They gave $80 million to this project, but none of them will be able to enjoy this water park unless they pay for a room," said Lynea Hansen.
The Gaylord Rockies, at 1.9 million square feet on 85 acres, is projected to draw more than 450,000 net new visitors a year and create 1,550 permanent, direct jobs, backers said.
Aurora and Adams County have pledged incentives worth $8.4 million to $9.9 million a year, and the state's economic-development commission has approved tax rebates worth $2.7 million to $3.5 million a year, depending on the taxes generated.
Existing hotels, however, are legally challenging the state award. Aurora in turn filed its own lawsuit, claiming interference.
Aldo Svaldi: 303-954-1410, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/aldosvaldi