A meeting in Colorado is guaranteed to rise above the mundane, inspiring attendees whether they experience mile-high Denver’s cosmopolitan sophistication, or the breathtaking scenery and outdoor adventure that abounds from Colorado Springs to Rocky Mountain ski meccas.
And rising to the top of Colorado’s legendary resorts is the 100-year-old Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, which hosted a four-day meeting for Kiewit Corporation that included 700 attendees and guests.
Katie Sullivan, event production director for planit inc., who planned the meeting, says, “We chose The Broadmoor because it was an affordable option to get all employees out of their home towns and truly engaged in the meeting. We wanted Colorado to make a change from the previous location where the meeting had always been held.”
Sullivan found The Broadmoor’s 185,000 sf of flexible meeting space to be a good fit for the meeting. “The resort provided ample space for general sessions, breakouts, meal rooms, breaks and entertainment all in close proximity,” says Sullivan. “The hotel layout and variety of options allowed employees to focus on the meeting elements while their guests had multiple options for entertainment and relaxation.”
All of the group’s activities were held onsite. Sullivan used a range of The Broadmoor’s venues for a variety of functions. Ballroom and banquet spaces hosted general sessions, breakouts and breakfasts as well as several other activities, including cooking and mixology classes, a margarita-making competition and yoga.
Sullivan and her team transformed The Broadmoor International Center throughout the week for a variety of functions. “We used this space and the built-in stage for lunches and dinner, both of which had programs during the meals,” says Sullivan. “We then flipped the space for a small group breakfast and meeting. We also used this space for the final-night reception, which included food stations and entertainment. It worked out wonderfully.”
Rates for food and beverage were top-notch. “There was great value,” says Sullivan. “The chef made custom menus to fit our themes and worked with us on our budget. We received several comments from attendees on how wonderful the food was.”
The 784-room Broadmoor is constantly offering more meeting options. Late last year, 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.
The Estate House offers several customizable meeting spaces, including a grand parlor that accommodates up to 120 for cocktail receptions and 60 for a private dinner or meeting. The dining room seats 16 for dinner. Spaces suitable for breakouts include an outdoor covered veranda overlooking two croquet lawns as well as the library and third-floor meeting room. Some guests can stay in five luxurious bedrooms.
The Broadmoor’s 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.
Also last year, The Broadmoor opened The Overlook at Cloud Camp, a dedicated 1,500-sf meeting and event space atop Cheyenne Mountain. Located seven miles from the Broadmoor, Cloud Camp accommodates up to 60 guests. Activities include mule rides, hiking, archery, yoga and crafts.
Other outdoor activities include mountain biking, rock-climbing tours, paintball, fly-fishing and falconry. Teambuilding options include Pikes Peak Cog Railway, The Broadmoor Soaring Adventure zip-line courses and Seven Falls.
The variety of outdoor activities in Colorado Springs helped attract Dow Agrosciences LLC to the destination in October. The company’s three-day meeting for 53 sales and marketing employees was held at the 117-room Mining Exchange, a Wyndham Grand Hotel with 17,000 sf of event space including seven meeting rooms and the 3,500-sf Grand Ballroom. It was the group’s first meeting at the property.
The size of The Mining Exchange was a big factor in its selection. “With this being a small property, it was a great fit for a group of around 50 people,” says Audra Stewart, CMP, event planner for Indianapolis, Indiana-based Dow Agrosciences. “It allowed us to be the only group on the property and provided a small, intimate atmosphere for attendees to connect and network with each other as well as meet their overall meeting objectives.”
The layout of The Mining Exchange’s meeting spaces matched the meeting’s objectives. “This group had a large amount of material to cover in a small amount of time, and with meeting rooms right next to each other, attendees didn’t have to spend much time walking around the property looking for the rooms,” says Stewart. “The close proximity of meeting rooms allowed the group to have quick turnaround times between sessions.”
The size and flexibility of the Mining Exchange’s meeting spaces also fit the group’s needs. “The rooms were large and conducive to a variety of setups that, on occasion, allowed two of our groups to be in the same room at the same time without being disruptive to each other,” says Stewart. “We used a variety of setups through the week including conferences in the breakout rooms. The general session space also held an awards banquet.”
Properties such as The Mining Exchange are only part of what attracts groups to Colorado Springs. “We have so many activity options in Colorado Springs that it is easy to continue to give guests a new experience each time, says Danielle McNair, director of sales and business development, Colorado, for DSC (Destination Services Corp.), an AlliedPRA Company. “We have some groups who come back annually and it is a trick to keep things fresh, but we look for inspiration everywhere.”
McNair says, “One of our team members created an amazing ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ event after seeing a dance-floor ceiling covered in mirrored balls while on vacation in Mexico. This was a new twist on Colorado’s cowboy and Western heritage. The clients and guests loved it. Microbreweries are popular so we created a microbrewery tour.”
It’s no wonder that Colorado Springs set visitor records in 2016, attracting 7.4 million overnight visitors, representing a 32 percent increase since 2011, according to the Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Colorado Springs is not alone. More people are discovering Denver’s mix of urban modernity, mountain beauty and frontier history.
Last year, Denver welcomed a record 31.5 million visitors, including a record 17.3 million who stayed overnight, according to Visit Denver, the city’s CVB. According to Richard Scharf, president and CEO of Visit Denver, “Since voters approved an increase of tourism marketing dollars in 2005, Denver has seen tourism grow 62 percent — nearly three times the 22 percent national average.”
Denver continues to offer planners more of what they need to plan successful meetings. “Because of large citywide conventions and the growth of Denver in the past 10 years, venues have expanded to accommodate larger groups,” says McNair. “Downtown areas like the River North Art District (RiNo) and Lower Highlands are revitalized and trendy.”
In addition, McNair notes, more entrepreneurs are opening farm-to-table restaurants using local ingredients. Despite all the change, she adds, some of the main attractions continue to be things like the Rockies, sports stadiums and museums.
More meeting space and hotel rooms are on the way in Denver.
Denver city officials recently announced plans for a $233 million expansion of the Colorado Convention Center (CCC), located within walking distance of 10,000 hotel rooms. Plans call for a 50,000-sf outdoor terrace with views of the Rocky Mountains, various multifunction meeting spaces and several modified lobbies. The CCC currently offers 100,000 sf of meeting space on one level and 584,000 sf of exhibit space.
Located just outside Denver, Aurora will be home to the state’s largest combined convention center and hotel, the 1,500-room Gaylord Rockies Resort & Conference Center, when it opens in late 2018. The property will offer 485,000 sf of meeting and convention space including four 8,000- to 59,736-sf ballrooms, up to 81 breakout rooms and a 175,000-sf Exhibit Hall with a 20,000-sf outdoor patio. The property also will offer eight dining experiences, an indoor/outdoor pool complex, Relache Spa and Salon, and state-of-the-art fitness center.
Hyatt’s Denver properties include the 1,100-room Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center with more than 60,000 sf of event space, and the AAA Four Diamond Grand Hyatt Denver, which offers 516 rooms and 52,600 sf of event space, including two ballrooms. Both properties offer scenic views of the Rocky Mountains and downtown.
The 196-room JW Marriott Denver Cherry Creek, in Denver’s iconic shopping and dining district, features 9,400 sf of meeting space, including the newly remodeled 1,400-sf Fireside & Patio indoor and outdoor venue with LED chandeliers. Other spaces include the 2,175-sf Bluebell Ballroom and 1,100-sf The Deck – 3rd Floor outdoor event and reception space.
The 370-room Westin Westminster, located between Denver and Boulder, offers more than 60,000 sf of meeting space encompassing 26 indoor rooms and six outdoor venues. The largest meeting space is the 11,914-sf pillarless Westminster Ballroom with a 60-foot glass wall offering views of the Promenade Lake and Fountain. An adjacent 15,000-sf prefunction space allows access to two outdoor courtyards.
The number and variety of luxury mountain resorts sets Colorado apart from other U.S. destinations. Such properties include the four-diamond Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs, which offers 316 guest rooms and more than 40,000 sf of IACC-certified meeting and event space including 38 meeting rooms. Amenities include an 18-hole championship golf course, 12 outdoor tennis courts, five indoor tennis courts and a 35-acre private lake.
One large corporation held a meeting for managers and executives at Cheyenne Mountain Resort for the first time in 2003 and has been returning multiple times a year since. “We intend to continue holding programs at Cheyenne Mountain Resort several times a year going forward,” says the company’s corporate planner. “We use this facility for a number of reasons: location, setting, meeting space and amenities. They treat us like family, and our clients love the resort.”
The value that Cheyenne Mountain Resort offers keeps the company coming back. “It has fair and competitive rates for the meeting space, sleeping rooms and food and beverage,” says the planner. “I feel like they are trying to give rates at the lowest possible price point while remaining profitable and competitive in this market. They do a great job of showing client appreciation with discounts and special events. They over-deliver on the contract and their promises.”
The company made full use of Cheyenne Mountain Resort’s meeting space in a variety of ways. “We used the general session room for classroom/conference -style meetings every day,” says the planner. “We used breakout rooms in a couple of different configurations — conference style for small group meetings and as an empty space for teambuilding activities. We also used it for a bridge-building activity where attendees are in competition as a leadership skills practice activity.”
Colorado is a mountain town mecca, including Breckenridge, Beaver Creek, Keystone and Vail.
Vail Resorts is a key player with 11 world-class mountain resorts and three urban ski areas, including the Colorado properties of Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Hotel Talisa, formerly Vail Cascade Resort & Spa.
Hotel Talisa will be the only luxury ski-in/ski-out property in Vail when it opens in October after a $50 million renovation. The 285-room property will feature more than 40,000 sf of meeting space including 19 meeting rooms and a 19,000-sf exhibit hall.
Rooms will offer large windows and balconies overlooking the mountains and forest, and freestanding soaker tubs in spacious five-fixture baths. Skiing amenities include a dedicated chairlift as well as ski rentals and ticket office. In addition to skiing, guests can enjoy mountain biking, kayaking, snowmobiling, snowshoeing and a 58,000-sf athletic club as well as three restaurants.
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.
In Breckenridge, attendees enjoy mountain ski town culture at the 208-room Doubletree by Hilton Breckenridge near downtown with scenic views of the Rockies. Hundreds of restaurants, galleries, shops, museums and night sports are nearby. The property offers 9,000 sf of meeting space, including 10 meeting rooms. The Hilton is across the street from Breckenridge Ski Resort’s Peak 9, which offers ski equipment rental and a range of outdoor activities.
Whether it’s Breckenridge, Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs or any other mountain town, Colorado offers some of the most unique meeting venues in the nation. “The Colorado meeting experience goes beyond state-of-the-art facilities and world-class accommodations,” says McNair. “You can meet on a dude ranch, at a winery, at a mountain-top venue, or cosmopolitan hotel. Corporate groups are seeking experiences that are outside of the standard meeting room environment.”
Sometimes, McNair continues, the best place to close a deal or inspire a sales team is on a ski lift, river, trail or even on horseback. Meeting among nature’s stunning mountains and peaks stimulates ideas and innovation, she adds.
Indeed, Colorado’s spectacular settings are matched by a Western hospitality guaranteed to garner a tip of the Stetson from every attendee. C&IT