Massive Gaylord Rockies Resort Opens Near DIA
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The first guest checked into the massive Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center on Tuesday, eight years after the city of Aurora started discussions about developing the property.
The first guest to check in, GAMA International CEO Bonnie Godsman, organized a conference that brought 3,000 insurance executives to Aurora. The Gaylord Rockies has 1,501 rooms and 486K SF of meeting space.
“We have never in the 85-year history of our group hosted an event in Colorado,” Godsman said. “I walked into this hotel and I was blown away.”
But getting to this point wasn’t without its challenges. The Gaylord Rockies faced three lawsuits, a bill in the legislature that sought to kill it and a state audit of its incentives.
“If you followed the press over the last decade, you know this day almost never came,” Houston-based RIDA Development Corp. President Ira Mitzner told the crowd of people gathered in the Gaylord Rockies lobby for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. RIDA developed the project after the original development partner, Gaylord Entertainment, dropped out.
The $800M project generated 10,000 construction jobs and has created about 1,500 permanent jobs that Mitzner described as livable wage, quality jobs with benefits like health insurance and 401(k) plans.
The city of Aurora kicked in $300M to support the project, and the state contributed $81.4M.
The resort is expected to generate $275M annually in economic activity and spark future development, said Aurora Mayor Bob LeGare, who is the third mayor to work on the project.
“This hotel is a symbol of strategic vision of council today and going back 15 years,” LeGare said.
The hotel has already started to spur development activity in the surrounding area. RIDA purchased 130 acres to develop as Rockies Village near the Gaylord Rockies, and housing developments are planned nearby — Painted Prairie on 620 acres, and Aurora Highlands, which is expected to have 23,000 homes at full build-out.
Elected officials, members of the development team and civic leaders revealed a number of facts about the Gaylord Rockies:
Eighty-one percent of the groups that have been booked have never held meetings in Colorado. It took eight banks to finance the project. 1.1 million room nights were booked before the hotel officially opened.
See more pictures of the new hotel on the following slides.