When Kim Mydland was in the midst of planning a second meeting for the Radiology Business Management Association at the famous Broadmoor in Colorado Springs in 2016, one of her board members approached her with what could have been a challenging request.
At a previous conference at The Broadmoor three years earlier, he had enjoyed his room so much that he wanted to stay in that exact same room again. Of course, he didn’t remember the room number, but he was bringing his wife to this next conference and wanted her to experience the room he had raved about so much.
“Any other hotel, I would have been afraid to make such a request, but sure enough, The Broadmoor had the records and made it happen,” said Mydland, who was the director of education and meetings for the 2,300-member association at the time. “That kind of service is what (has drawn) us back to The Broadmoor and Colorado Springs over and over again.”
Colorado is a particularly desirable destination for conferences because of easy air access from most of North America and the enormous variety of communities, meeting facilities and accommodation choices around the state. But of course, the greatest pull are the Rocky Mountains themselves, a wonderland any season of the year, and very popular for convention attendees who bring along family or tack a few vacation days on to end of the conference.
Meetings in the Rocky Mountain State often come with their own terminology. For example, “front range.” That’s the area where the Rockies meet the Great Plains on the eastern side of the state. So if you are meeting in Boulder, Fort Collins, Denver or Colorado Springs, you’re meeting on the Front Range.
If you’re meeting in Aspen, Vail or just about any of the mountain resorts, you are on the Western Slope or the west side of the Continental Divide.
If you’re from anywhere below 4,000 feet in elevation, you’re considered a flatlander. Own it!
And this is perhaps the most important terminology to understand, if you have not been to Colorado in a while: A pharmacy and a dispensary are two different businesses in this part of the world. The first sells pharmaceuticals, the other sells a certain kind of plant that redefines Rocky Mountain High. And if someone suggests edibles, it’s not necessarily an appetizer for your event.
In November 2015, Denver voters overwhelmingly approved a major expansion of the Colorado Convention Center, which is already more than 2 million sf of enclosed space. Although the design phase is underway, a completion date has not yet been set. The expansion will include an additional 80,000 sf of ballroom and meeting space; and 100,000 sf of prefunction and service space that also will include a 50,000-sf outdoor, rooftop terrace. Lots of floor-to-ceiling windows promise to take advantage of the 300 days of sunshine Denver enjoys. Videostreaming and increased Wi-Fi capacity also are part of the planned renovation.
That’s good news for all, with the possible exception of groups like the Public Library Association (PLA), a division of the American Library Association. Melissa Faubel Johnson, CMP, coordinated the group’s first conference in Denver in 2016. Nearly 8,000 people attended the conference held in the Colorado Convention Center and all went flawlessly.
“Since the center currently fits our needs so well, I do have concerns about expansion,” says Faubel. “It could mean that we would have to “share” the facility with another group in the future, which is not ideal.”
The PLA used 17 hotels in the downtown area, all within two or three blocks and easy walking distance from the convention center, which was a huge selling point for PLA members.
“There is so much to do in the downtown area,” Faubel says. “The overall city package and accessibility from across the nation fits our needs very well.”
CNN’s Anderson Cooper was the opening session speaker. Faubel expected about 5,000 of the 8,000 attendees to attend the event in the Bellco Theatre, which seats 5,000. Faubel and those on the ground in Denver were worried about the potential for an overflow crowd and managing such a large throng of people.
“I worked with my event manager at the center, as well as their in-house security team to develop a plan for ushering attendees into the theater in order to fill all the seats,” she says. “PLA staff, along with the ushers and center staff, did a fabulous job of maximizing the seating and the opening session was a huge success.”
That was the biggest stressor Faubel had during the entire event. She praises Lindsey Richeaux, CMP, senior event manager at the convention center, for her timely responses to all needs and overall thoroughness in planning this event. Faubel calls her the best planner she’s ever worked with at a convention center.
If you like your meetings with that new carpet smell to them, plan a meeting in late 2018 at the Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center in Aurora, the fifth Gaylord Hotel in the country. Construction is underway on the project, which will bring 1,501 guest rooms and 485,000 sf of meeting and convention space to the Denver metro area. In addition, the 85-acre property will include eight dining venues, an indoor/outdoor pool complex with lazy river and water slides, along with numerous basketball and tennis courts. The Grand Lodge will celebrate nature the way Colorado intended with an indoor lake, winding pathways and waterfalls, 125-seat lobby bar and spectacular views of the Rocky Mountain Front Range. When complete, it will be the largest convention/hotel facility in the state. The property will be managed by Marriott.
Another property that may still qualify for that new carpet smell is the Hyatt Regency Aurora-Denver Conference Center, which debuted in April 2016. The 249-room hotel features a 30,000-sf IACC-certified conference and event space. Hotel amenities include an outdoor swimming pool and full-service restaurant. Located on the east side of the Denver metro area, the property is adjacent to the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and is actually closer to the Denver International Airport than many properties in downtown Denver.
Also boasting an IACC-certified conference center is the Hilton Denver Inverness, which debuted last spring. Formerly the Inverness Hotel & Conference Center, the Hilton offers 62,000 sf of high-tech conference space, an 18-hole championship golf course, full-service spa and five award-winning restaurants.
The 613-room Hilton Denver City Center recently completed a $27 million multiphased renovation encompassing public spaces, guest rooms and dining venues. The 20-story hotel offers breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains and city skyline, and is conveniently located near main downtown attractions including the Colorado Convention Center, 16th Street Mall, Pepsi Center, Sports Authority Field and Denver Art Museum.
The Westin Westminster has completed more than $2 million in upgrades to its 370 guest rooms, including 350 pieces of art by Colorado artists. In addition to digital signage with real time upgrades for convention attendees, the Westin Westminster has become the first Colorado hotel with check-in via mobile phone and keyless entry using the same phone app. The Westin is also the first Colorado hotel to take advantage of Denver’s 300 days of sunshine by installing solar panels for much of its energy needs.
Colorado Springs has 14,500 guest rooms with more than 5,000 designated as convention guest rooms. Between Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak, you’ll find 450,000 sf of meeting space and more than 50 unique attractions and activities.
For some wow factor, host an event at the U.S. Olympic Training Center or get your cowboy on at the Colorado Springs Rodeo Series, complete with a chuckwagon dinner.
Located about 80 miles south of Denver International Airport, Colorado Springs has its own airport and numerous direct flights from Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles via American, Delta, United and Allegiant. However, Myland with the Radiology Business Management Association (RBMA) reported that several of their attendees had to skip the last day of the conference in order to make connections and get back home before the wee hours of the morning.
The 2016 meeting of the RBMA was the third time the organization has met there, in part because of the geographic diversity of its members, says Myland. RBMA has members from Alaska to Maine to Hawaii to Florida.
“The Broadmoor is a little more expensive than other places we’ve been, but our attendees often report that they feel as if we are the most important guests on the site,” Myland says. “I’m always impressed with the overall cleanliness and abundance of fresh flowers that make everything feel spotless.”
The 784-room Broadmoor also offers three Wilderness Experience properties: The Ranch at Emerald Valley, Cloud Camp and Fishing Camp. And in fall 2016, The Broadmoor opened The Estate House, a lavish 12,000-sf historic mansion designed during the 1920s that is perfect for small private parties and receptions. Overall, The Broadmoor features 185,000 sf of function space, including the 60,000-sf Broadmoor Hall and 62 meeting rooms.
Broadmoor amenities include three championship golf courses, a year-round tennis program, a Forbes Five Star spa and fitness center as well as 26 retail boutiques. There are more than 20 restaurants, cafés and lounges, including the Penrose Room, Colorado’s only Forbes Five Star, AAA Five Diamond restaurant.
Myland notes that Colorado Springs is a destination where a lot more spouses and family members join attendees, in part because of The Broadmoor and in part because Colorado Springs has so much to offer. The lack of public transportation in the city doesn’t seem to inhibit attendees from getting out and exploring. Uber has a presence in Colorado Springs, and abundant parking is not an issue for those who rent their own vehicle.
Molly Lydon, CPS, assistant to the president and CEO of the Iowa Bankers Association (IBA), is starting her 25th year planning meetings and events for the organization. For most of that time, the mid-winter management conference has been held at a Colorado ski resort. Steamboat and Vail have been extremely popular with attendees, who often bring family with them, but after a FAM trip to Telluride, Lydon decided to shake things up a bit and head to the southwest corner of the state.
Tucked in at the end of a box canyon, Telluride is surrounded by a number of the “fourteeners” that Coloradans are so proud of — 54 mountains peaks over 14,000 feet in elevation. Once a thriving mining community, Telluride all but disappeared off the maps until hippies discovered the mountain town in the ’60s, followed by snow-skiing enthusiasts in the ’80s. The Old West history here is fabulous, and much of the original charm remains in the community of 2,400. Just walking down the wooden sidewalks in the old town is entertainment in itself.
The problem with Telluride is that it’s not as easy to reach as many of the other mountain resorts in Colorado. The municipal airport is no longer serviced by commercial aviation, thus Montrose Regional Airport, about an hour away, is the closest airport for those arriving by air.
But that didn’t deter Molly Lydon and her group of 63 bankers from Iowa, who found the connections from Des Moines through Denver to Montrose manageable in about a half day’s travel.
“We received such good rates on lift tickets and shuttle transportation from the airport that it more than made up for any additional expense in airfare,” Lydon says.
The group always meets over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend — a good time for bankers to be away from the office — but also a time when many slopes in Colorado are packed with others enjoying the three-day weekend.
“I don’t ski, but many of our attendees were quite pleased that the slopes were not as busy and the lift lines were not as long as Beaver Creek or Vail had been,” she says.
Lydon personally enjoyed the ice rink and outdoor pool at the Madeline Hotel and Residences. The deck around the pool accommodates about 300 people for a reception. In the summer months, the ice rink becomes a flower-lined lawn, perfect for seated dinners for about 150.
The Madeline has 100 guest rooms with ski-in/out services.
A number of IBA members chose to extend their visit to Telluride on the front or back end of the conference. This experience was enhanced by the city and hotel printing out the vouchers for airport shuttle and ski lifts in advance and shipping them to IBA offices in Des Moines. Lydon then packaged them with other conference registration materials and shipped them to individual attendees in advance, thus eliminating check-in lines and registration congestion onsite.
Telluride was such a positive experience for this small association, that they’ve planned to return.
Vail. The former Vail Cascade Resort and Spa reopened in early 2017 as Hotel Talisa, Vail, the only true ski-in/ski-out luxury resort in Vail. Just a few steps away from the best hiking and biking trails in Vail Valley, the hotel features exclusive amenities and first-class service, including the Hotel Talisa Altitude Concierge to assist guests in adjusting to Vail’s 8,000+ feet of elevation (see box on page 48).
Last summer Vail Resorts Inc. — with Colorado properties in Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone — announced that the company will aggressively pursue a comprehensive sustainability commitment called “Epic Promise for a Zero Footprint.” The ambitious undertaking commits to zero net emissions by 2030, zero waste to landfill by 2030 and zero net operating impact to forests and habitat. More information is available at www.epicpromise.com/zerofootprint.
Aspen. Would you like something other than white linens for your banquet events without the up charge? Thanks to a remodel at the St. Regis, several shades of silver linens have been added to the selection. New Wi-Fi capabilities can be pinpointed to the specifications of each group without unique group passcodes. And because summer is as great as winter in Aspen, the hotel has a new fleet of bicycles available to conference guests who might take advantage of downtime to explore the Aspen community or ride the Rio Grande Trail.
Beaver Creek. The Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa debuted a $1 million renovation of the lobby and bar area in late 2016. The new bar called Antler Hall features many high-end cocktails and a wide selection of beers from Colorado’s numerous craft breweries. Beaver Creek is accessed through the Eagle-Vail airport. The Osprey Fireside Grill at Beaver Creek features a casual slope-side atmosphere. Olympic and World Champion alpine ski racer Lindsey Vonn has contributed to the breakfast menu. The Osprey, which can seat up to 100 people, can be bought out for an event.
Crested Butte. The Crested Butte Mountain Resort completed an overhaul of AV equipment and internet access throughout the property in 2017. Also, a new year-round “umbrella bar” on the Ten Peaks meeting and event site provides additional prefunction cocktails and better restrooms for any events in an adjacent tent, which can accommodate 250 in a sit-down dinner.
Estes Park. You know the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park as inspiration for Stephen King’s “The Shining,” starring Jack Nicholson in one of his most legendary roles. If that’s not reason enough to book a meeting here, a new event pavilion features a 250-seat glass-door auditorium and more than 8,000 sf of banquet space. The hotel features a total of 41,000 sf of meeting and event space. Estes Park, located 90 minutes north of Denver, is the east entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park and known for the country’s largest concentration of wild elk.
Also in Estes Park is a new 33,000-sf Events Center with the capacity to accommodate 3,700 people. It is part of the EstesPark Event Complex, which also includes the 25,000-sf indoor-outdoor pavilion, 42-acre fairgrounds and full-service conference center.
Keystone. The Keystone Resort and Conference Center is the largest freestanding meeting venue in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. The facility offers planners everything they need for meetings, including a total of 100,000 sf of meeting, event and exhibit space. Two flexible ballrooms, one of which is circular, are on the ground floor. Two ground-level loading areas provide easy access for exhibits and large displays.
Keystone provides attendee lodging in 1,200 units in Keystone Lodge & Spa, West Keystone, River Run Village and Ski Tip Lodge. In addition, Keystone offers two golf courses — Keystone Ranch Golf Course and The River Course at Keystone.
Steamboat Springs. The Steamboat Grand Hotel has recently improved its wireless system using Ruckus Wireless that can now accommodate 2,000 devices during meetings. An expanded pool deck for outdoor functions plus new carpeting and paint refreshes the entire property. The Rendezvous Lodge, also in Steamboat, received a major exterior makeover in late 2015.