DENVER (AP/CBS4) – A Western-themed convention center planned for the Denver suburb of Aurora will rival ritzy hotels of Las Vegas, create a $1 billion economic impact after 2015 and generate thousands of jobs, according to the Nashville-based entertainment and hospitality company planning it.
The chairman and chief executive officer of Gaylord Entertainment, Colin Reed, said Tuesday the complex will create about 2,000 construction jobs and 1,800 permanent jobs when it’s complete and cited the company’s reputation as the employer of choice in major meeting markets.
Gaylord hired Hensel Phelps Construction Co. of Colorado as the general contractor for the project, and officials said they hope to break ground by mid-to-late 2012.
Gaylord has a track record of building large, elaborate hotel and entertainment centers, and Reed said it has been looking at the Denver-Broomfield region for over three years. The company already has hotels in Nashville, Tenn., Orlando, Fla., Dallas and Washington.
“Out of the top 20 big hotels in the country, we have four. If I were to draw a line between Chicago and Dallas, and looking at everything west of there, the only thing like what we’re building is in Las Vegas,” Reed said.
The convention hotel will be located about 10 minutes from the Denver International Airport on 85 acres of LNR Property, a real estate company based in Florida.
“As the developer of the surrounding property we couldn’t be more pleased to have a partnership for building a gateway to the region,” said Justin Kennedy, co-CEO for LNR Property. “Maybe we just weren’t bold enough to dream this big.”
Officials said the complex will be Western-themed in keeping with the region’s cowboy and livestock trademark, but Gaylord spokesman Pete Webb said the design specifics are still in the works.
“The hotels embrace the area to significantly represent the theme of the area. But we’re still in the design phase so we don’t have specifics about what Western-themed means specifically,” Webb said.
Reed said the company chose a location near Denver because its target customer base looks for an experience that takes care of all needs under one roof. Gaylord builds night entertainment into its hotels and the one in Aurora will feature 400,000 square feet of exhibition and meeting space and an atrium offering views of the Front Range and the Rocky Mountains.
“The reason why big convention markets tend to be in places like Las Vegas, Orlando, San Francisco, San Antonio, it’s not by chance. These are fun cities. People want to go where they can have fun,” Reed said.
The city of Aurora has approved an incentive package to help build the $800 million complex. The Denver Post reports that the package was unanimously backed by the city councilors on Monday and is worth up to $300 million.
“What’s so exciting about Gaylord is they’re going to be bringing thousands and thousands of new visitors to Colorado who wouldn’t be here otherwise,” said Aurora mayor Ed Tauer.
The National Western Stock Show & Rodeo is expected to move to a facility near the planned complex. However, stock show organizers and Gaylord don’t have a deal or a contract yet.
CEO and president of National Western, Paul Andrews, said the event has been eyeing the High Point site on the Aurora-Denver border for some time now and is excited about the prospect of having Gaylord in the area.
“The National Western Stock Show continues to work with the city of Denver as we explore the High Point area as a possible option for the National Western complex in the future,” Andrews said.
The stock show has been considering a move because the 90-acre show is fenced in on all sides by highways, rivers, railroad tracks, streets and houses. The show draws thousands of spectators, farmers and ranchers and attracts a national crowd because it’s a showcase for the latest in genetics and breeding.
Not everybody is celebrating the news. The Denver Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau has already launched a study to determine how much business Gaylord will cost them.
“Anytime you add 1,500 rooms, which is about 20 percent of our downtown market place; and 450,000 square feet of exhibit space, which is half the size of our convention center; you could probably see some impact,” Richard Scharf with Visit Denver said.
“You shouldn’t actually be fearful of what we’re going to do. You should understand that we’re going to actually bring a lot more customers here and all boats will rise on this rising tide,” Reed said.
Gaylord’s flagship property is the Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville.
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