When it comes to a central location with a wealth of attractions, it’s hard to beat Colorado. Combining stunning mountain beauty, frontier history and the progressiveness of the modern West, not to mention easy access from virtually anywhere, the state can be an outstanding meeting destination.
“Colorado is a great location for professional meetings,” says Nicolette Eaves, owner and chief event designer for Sparrow Event Planning in Denver. “It is centrally located, and traveling to the state is easy.” She cites top-notch hotels and meeting venues as pluses, along with an impressive array of entertainment opportunities. “And you can’t argue with over 300 days of sunshine,” she adds.
Earlier this year, Eaves planned and executed a meeting that took place at The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa at Beaver Creek Mountain. She feels the event was a big success.
“In the past 10 years Colorado has really positioned itself well to receive meetings of all sizes and budgets.”
— Nicolette Eaves
“Beaver Creek is an absolutely gorgeous location with stunning mountain views, world-class dining and abundant recreation options at your fingertips,” she says. “The hotel staff was welcoming and professional, and the facility is nicely appointed without being stuffy or elitist.”
Eaves likes the flexibility offered by the state’s destinations.
“In the past 10 years Colorado has really positioned itself well to receive meetings of all sizes and budgets,” she says. “So many new hotels and venues have been built or renovated with the latest technology and comforts in mind. Colorado really does have something for everyone!”
Paula J. Karchner, CMP, vice president of meetings for the Washington, DC-based Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers, couldn’t agree more. The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs is a favorite as they hold two meetings a year there.
With a long-standing reputation as a luxury hotel, The Broadmoor sits on 5,000 acres of parkland on the southern edge of the Rockies. The huge selection of meeting options includes 62 venues totaling 185,000 sf of meeting space. More than 600 guest rooms include traditional rooms, suites, two brownstones and 44 cottage bedrooms.
“Colorado Springs is a great destination for meetings, says Karchner. “It’s normally just one flight for both the East Coast and the West Coast.”
About 500 executives and spouses attend an annual May meeting, while the October event attracts 900 attendees and 500 spouses.
“The Broadmoor provides the best of everything,” Karchner says. “Their quality of service is what every hotel strives to achieve, the food and beverage experience is fantastic and the conference service team is out of this world.” She says that when she places a meeting there, she rests assured that it will be a success not just for participants, but for spouses and guests as well.
She recalls that at the closing dinner for her last meeting, the food and beverage team took the theme of the party and designed a menu completely around it.
“They did not serve the attendees a regular meal,” she says. “They gave them an experience and it made the evening even more of a success.”
For some guests, a highlight was checking out the resort’s new wilderness experiences, Cloud Camp and the Ranch at Emerald Valley. Cloud Camp, sitting at an elevation of 9,200 feet, accommodates 56 guests with 11 one- and two-bedroom guest cabins and a six-room lodge. An unusual two-story fire tower suite features a living room and bedroom, each with 360-degree views. Located in Pike National Forest at an 8,200-foot altitude, the ranch offers a private escape in one of 10 cabins with gas fireplaces and modern amenities
In late 2016, The Broadmoor opened The Estate House, a 12,000-sf historic mansion, which was designed in the 1920s and evokes visions of Gatsbyesque grand affairs and parties with its luxurious and opulent setting. The home has been entirely refreshed while maintaining the historic sophistication of the home’s original woodwork, art and other period features.
This private retreat boasts a variety of spaces, customizable to fit the needs of any group. A grand parlor is equally suited to a cocktail reception of up to 120, private dinners for up to 60, or meetings. The dining room seats up to 16 and is serviced by The Broadmoor’s culinary team. For a quiet escape, or breakout meeting, the library and third-floor reading rooms provide additional flex space, and an outdoor covered veranda overlooks two sprawling croquet lawns and manicured gardens, offering a natural extension to the inside areas.
In addition to the meeting and event rooms, the property features five spacious and well-appointed bedrooms, each with a king or two queen beds and private baths.
A stay at The Estate House also affords access to the full range of the resort’s amenities where guests can spend downtime at one of three championship golf courses, the Forbes Five Star spa and fitness center, a nationally recognized year-round tennis program, 26 retail boutiques and more than 20 restaurants, cafés and lounges, including Colorado’s only Forbes Five Star, AAA Five Diamond restaurant, Penrose Room. Other activities on the resort’s 5,000 acres include falconry, guided mountain biking, hiking, rock-climbing tours, fly-fishing, paintball and more. Offsite attractions for teambuilding include Pikes Peak Cog Railway, Seven Falls and The Broadmoor Soaring Adventure zip-line courses.
Baird, a firm specializing in wealth management, capital markets, private equity and asset management with headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has had great success with recent meetings in the Denver area.
“We love the options and quality of venues in Colorado,” says Katherine LaMacchia, vice president and corporate events manager for Baird Corporate Events. “With over 70 branches in the United States alone, we have associates coming from every direction for our meetings and events,” she says. “Denver is such an incredible hub, with a plethora of flights. It makes it easier for our attendees to spend less time away from their business and families, which is really important to us.”
Most recently, the company held its Women Advisor Summit at the JW Marriott Denver Cherry Creek. More than 100 of the company’s female advisors, senior management, speakers and business partners attended the annual event.
Lee says the Baird Women Advisor Summit is special to the company, and planners wanted a venue that would treat advisors and upper management with great care. The facilities also met the meeting’s twin purposes: professional development and networking.
“It was a perfect fit,” she says. “We liked the ample and flexible meeting space, attentive staff that could recognize our program needs sometimes before I even needed to ask, and wonderful facilities like their spa and Second Home restaurant for continued networking.”
Located in the Cherry Creek shopping and dining district, the hotel offers 196 guest rooms and suites, many with attractive mountain views. Its 8,400 sf of meeting space includes the Fireside, an outdoor event space featuring two walls of retractable glass doors leading to a patio with fire pits.
A special attraction is the hotel’s huge collection of Colorado art. Along with the hotel’s own restaurant and spa options, guests may explore the surrounding neighborhood with its more than 400 art galleries, boutiques, restaurants and spas.
The hotel offers an interactive guest engagement program that can be downloaded on mobile phones or tablets. Dubbed the PlaceApp, it can be customized for meetings and corporate guests, providing access to agendas and other event info.
For Baird, easy access was a major consideration in selection of the location as well as the event’s ultimate success. “The ease of getting to and from, both from the number of flights offered in and out of Denver and the ground transportation options around the city, were huge deciding factors,” Lee says.
The quality of the experience was also paramount. “The level of service and quality of facilities at the JW Marriott Cherry Creek were important to the success of our program,” she notes.
Participants thoroughly enjoyed the venue, and a group of 10–15 women from different branches extended their stay to continue networking.
“We kept the spa busy around our program, and the many shopping and restaurant options literally steps from the JW were definitely a reason for some to spend some extra time,” she says. Also, the central location proved advantageous to associates who wanted to take a trip to a neighboring mountain town or visit a client in the area after the program.
Lee reports that evaluations for the summit showed some of the highest scores to date.
“We recognize that the options within the Denver area, specifically the JW Marriott Cherry Creek, are largely to thank for the success of our program goals,” she says. “We’re planning on being back for a different summit this fall at the JW to repeat the success.”
Certainly the Mile High City has the options to meet almost any group’s needs. According to Visit Denver, the city’s convention and visitors bureau, Denver offers more than 9,400 hotel rooms within walking distance of the Colorado Convention Center and 44,000 metro wide with all brands and price points represented.
Over the past 10 years the city has generated record tourism numbers, including a 2016 increase of one million visitors over 2015. And those visitors translated into $5 billion in spending in Denver. Richard Scharf, president and CEO of Visit Denver, says the record tourism numbers “validate Denver voter approval to increase tourism marketing dollars back in 2005. Since that increase,” he adds, “Denver has seen dramatic tourism growth that translates into greater economic impact for the city.”
No surprise, then, that Denver is No. 11 on the Forbes 2016 list of America’s 20 Fastest Growing Cities. That kind of growth generates a lot of positives, including new and improved infrastructure and more options in terms of hotels, restaurants, amenities and activities for planners and their groups.
Already attractive for meeting attendees, conference space at the Grand Hyatt Denver was modernized including floor and wall coverings in patterns inspired by the city’s urban grid, using tones of gray and sunset rusts. The use of natural materials and dark walnut millwork complement custom light fixtures to provide a soft and flattering glow.
Located in the heart of downtown Denver’s business and financial district, the hotel offers more than 52,000 sf of meeting and event space, including five large ballrooms and 14 meeting rooms. Along with 516 guest rooms are rooftop jogging tracks and tennis courts, a 24-hour health club and access to a number of local attractions within easy walking distance.
The Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center boasts more than 60,000 sf of meeting space including two large ballrooms complemented by adjoining prefunction areas. Like the Grand Hyatt Denver, the hotel is also updating its look. Enhancements include layers of color and texture to evoke the surrounding mountains, more contemporary furnishings, collaborative seating and work tables and added flexibility in configuring meeting areas.
Along with 1,100 recently redesigned accommodations, the hotel, which is adjacent to the convention center, features a 6,700-sf fitness center and a 27th floor lounge with stunning views of the Rocky Mountains.
Additions to the Denver scene include the Crawford Hotel at Union Station, an Aloft, a Z-block and the innovative Art Hotel. Located in the city’s cultural district, this 165-room hotel is an art showplace, with contemporary art on display in two galleries, meeting rooms, hallways and other areas throughout the property.
The Westin Denver International Airport opened last year as part of the new hotel and transit center, which also features an outdoor plaza and a public transit center with rail service to the downtown area. Along with more than 519 soundproof guest rooms, The Westin offers 37,500 sf of function space.
Along with new and improved hotel properties, Denver will benefit from upgrades to convention facilities. On November 3, 2015, Denver voters overwhelmingly approved a major expansion of the Colorado Convention Center.
The new expansion will include the development of new flexible meeting and ballroom space of up to 85,000 sf and the addition of more than 100,000 sf of new prefunction and service space that also will include a 50,000-sf outdoor terrace to be located on the roof of the existing convention center.
Technology improvements will be made that will position the Colorado Convention Center as a “best-in-class” facility, keeping pace with current technologies and demand, including increased capacity for Wi-Fi and streaming video.
New and improved networking spaces will be incorporated into the building, providing innovative spaces intended to capture the spirit of Denver and Colorado, and allow attendees to connect in new ways.
Another Colorado Springs option is the Cheyenne Mountain Resort, a top-rated resort with 40,000 sf of meeting and event space. Along with 316 guest rooms, the resort offers a lake and beach area, tennis, hiking and a renovated championship Pete Dye-designed golf course. A recent addition is the full-featured Alluvia spa. The 38 dedicated conference rooms at the Cheyenne Mountain Conference Center, which includes a tiered amphitheater, can accommodate groups of 10–600 attendees in a variety of meeting formats.
Also located in Colorado Springs, The Mining Exchange, a Wyndham Grand Resort & Spa offers seven rooms totaling 17,000 sf of event space. A 3,500-sf grand ballroom seats 220 people for banquets or up to 400 for receptions. Two smaller rooms also are available, one with hardwood floors, exposed brick walls and an attached terrace for a combination indoor-outdoor space.
Located between Denver and Boulder and 30 minutes from Denver International Airport, The Westin Westminster has 369 guest rooms and plenty of amenities. A total of 26 meeting rooms provide more than 30,000 sf of event space, including a 12,000-sf grand ballroom. Plenty of outdoor event space also is available. Staff like to point out the technology offered to conference attendees, including state-of-the-art wireless internet access, telephone drops to fiber optics connections and T-1 lines expandable to the equivalent of two T-3s. Guests enjoy outdoor activities such as skiing, snowboarding, horseback riding and mountain biking.
Situated 90 miles west of the Denver International Airport, the Keystone Conference Center has more than 60,000 sf of meeting, exhibit and event space. With another 40,000 sf of meeting space resort-wide, the combined Keystone Resort and Conference Center stands as the largest meeting venue in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. The free-standing conference center features two ballrooms on the same level, making it easy to schedule back-to-back general sessions and multiple breakouts. The second floor supports smaller sessions with additional meeting rooms secluded from the ballroom area. Other meeting space in the resort includes an outdoor pavilion and a mountaintop venue. Guests may enjoy any of 1,200 lodging units in three neighborhoods arranged in a campus-style layout, each within a short walk or shuttle ride from the conference center.
Offerings from the Gateway Canyons Resort & Spa include both traditional boardroom and ballroom settings as well as outdoor gathering sites. Located an hour southwest of Grand Junction and surrounded by majestic canyons, the Gateway’s facilities include 72 guest rooms and 8,778 sf of total meeting space. Other features include three restaurants, an adventure center and outfitting store, amphitheater, stables and a spa. They’re enhanced by attractions such as air tours, an auto museum and horseback rides.
At the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek, located about 130 miles from the Denver International Airport, 20,000 sf of event space is available, including newly updated facilities both indoors and outdoors. A grand ballroom and junior ballroom feature great views with outdoor balconies and patios. Some 190 guest rooms are available. Among other amenities are a spa, fitness center and a number of special programs for teambuilding,
Located in the mountain town of Breckenridge, the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel has 9,000 sf of event space with 10 meeting rooms featuring newly installed seating. The 208 guest rooms, renovated in July 2013, are complemented by both an indoor and outdoor hot tubs. Across the street is Peak 9 of the Breckenridge Ski Resort, which offers ski equipment rental, pre-ski yoga and a variety of outdoor activities.
Boulder’s largest hotel, the Millennium Harvest House, has just renovated 100 of its 269 rooms. Located adjacent to the University of Colorado campus, it offers 18,000 sf of event space, including a 5,000-sf ballroom.
Aurora, Colorado, just east of downtown Denver and directly south of Denver International Airport, is a new area for corporate meetings.
The Anschutz Medical Campus helped to launch Aurora’s transformation and drive an expansion of ancillary businesses. In April, Hyatt Regency Aurora-Denver Conference Center, a mile from the medical campus, opened with 249 rooms and 30,000 sf of meeting and function space. Additionally, the 1,500-room Gaylord Rockies Resort & Conference Center will open in Aurora in late 2018, becoming the state’s largest hotel.
The Grand Hyatt Denver and Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center had a combined $10 million makeover to meeting spaces and ballrooms, with new designs providing more of a Colorado aesthetic and sense of place. Between the two hotels, planners have access to more than 113,200 sf of meeting and function space.
Boulder’s renowned historic hotel, The Boulderado, is updating its annex guest rooms and event center, as well as the mezzanine and lobby in the main building. The work will be completed in two phases. The hotel has 160 guest rooms and 10,000 sf of meeting and event space. I&FMM