Palm Springs and Desert Resorts - 2006-03-03(2)

With a JEWEL of a 260,000-square-foot convention center premiering in October, this UPSCALE, high-profile destination never stops raising the bar. Last year, the 144-room Parker Palm Springs opened with a separate 6,000-sf events center, joining the 13-room Ballantine’s Movie Colony, the 74-room Viceroy, and the eight-room Beat Hotel in the ranks of the area’s ECLECTIC boutique properties.

This September, the 162-room Hotel ZoSo opens with a 22,000-sf concourse that is divisible into more than a dozen configurations. Celebrating style, natural beauty, individuality—it’s what CALIFORNIA is all about.


At long last, the $32.3-million expansion of the Palm Springs Convention Center is expected to be complete next month, with an opening slated for mid-October.
Gone is the low-lying, box-like configuration of the former building; replacing it is an undulating roofline, which takes inspiration from the surrounding landscape.

Says Jim Dunn, the center’s GM, “We’re pleased that the project is shaping up to be as visually astounding as we’d hoped, but we’re equally happy with the tremen-dous flexibility and efficiency we’ve gained in the expanded facility. It’s really like having a completely new building to work with.” When completed, the 260,000-sf center will comprise 120,000- sf of exhibit space (with a carpeted exhibit hall that can be divided into five sections), 21 breakout rooms, a 20,000-sf ballroom, and a new 18,000-sf lobby with panoramic mountain views that can serve asreception or prefunction space. High-speed Internet will be available throughout the building. Meanwhile, California’s Native American resorts are heating up--in every way possible. In town, the 228-room Spa Resort & Casino recently built a $95-million gaming and restaurant complex.

Last December, the $250-million, 304-room Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa debuted in nearby Cabazon with an 11,500-sf ballroom and a 12,000-sf spa. (It also featured the ultrahip N9NE Steakhouse and the three-story, N9NE Group-developed Desert Rain nightclub, but, as of June, both the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and the N9NE Group were seeking to sever ties). In the same month, an earthquake tested the safety of Morongo’s hotel tower, which, at 27 stories, is the tallest building in Riverside County.

The second-tallest belongs to the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, a 12-story 250-room hotel with a 100,000-sf event centerthat recently opened in Indio.

FACILITIES UPDATE
Early this year, the 410-room Wyndham Palm Springs completed a renovation of the lobby, rooms, and suites, redesigned its restaurant and lounge, and added more than 4,500 sf of poolside event space.

--The 512-room Westin
Mission Hills is tending its golf courses.
This month, the Gary Player Signature
from Oct 24 to Nov 18, it will be closed for
groundskeeping. From Sept 26 to mid-Oct,
the Pete Dye Golf Course will be closed for
groundskeeping.

--In Oct, the 214-room Miramonte Resort &
Spa, which was recently taken over by
Destination Hotels & Resorts, will complete
its $9-million guest room renovation.


GROUPS SHOULD CONSIDER these recommendations from the Successful Meetings Home Team experts. Top choices include the 512-room Westin Mission Hills and the 830-room La Quinta Resort & Club.

Contributors to this section include Home Team members Robert Campbell and Kim Hester. Contact them at [email protected]


ON SITE

Some Like It Hot

The Palm Springs Desert Resorts CVA invites meeting
planners to check out its wide variety of meetings
friendly properties in the summertime, when the
temperature is most likely to break 100. You’d think
that would put people off, but not this crowd.

Having retired to the 228-room Spa Resort (following a
welcome dinner at the enchanting 560-room Renaissance Esmeralda), I woke up to a scorcher. It was already in the 80s as we breakfasted on the terrace of the 240-room Lodge at Rancho Mirage, then jumped into three open-sided Jeeps provided by Desert Adventures Jeep Tours to do a whirlwind site inspection.

Now, the thing to remember is that Palm Springs/Desert
Resorts is rich in celebrity residents. Statues of Lucille Ball and former mayor Sonny Bono grace downtown, and there is a Walk of Fame. (The latest celeb resident is Clint Eastwood, who just opened a Hogsbreath Saloon in La Quinta.) Streets are named after stars and presidents, so we roamed up and down roads named Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Eisenhower, and Gerald Ford. In fact, the former homes of Sinatra and Hope are available for events. Each resort tried to engage us with an activity--although the most popular appeared to be tortilla chip-dipping.

We chipped-dipped our way through inspections of the moderne 476-room Riviera, the massive 884-room JW Marriott Desert Springs, and the Mission-esque 830-room La Quinta, ending up at a sunset reception at the Tuscan-looking, 512-room Westin Mission Hills. All were stunning. Actual teambuilding included a chili cook-off at the 1,200-room Marriott Rancho Las Palmas, bowling at the 250-room Fantasy Resort Casino, and a hilarious karaoke bacchannal at the 193-room Hyatt Regency Suites.

But there was one impromptu teambuilding competition the CVA didn’t plan. The Jeep drivers had thoughtfully provided us with spray misters for our personal comfort. Some enterprising folks turned these against one another’s Jeeps, and we had a pitched water fight at every red light—not exactly mature, but still a welcome break from the heat. Because, even if you like it hot, they always say to make sure you are fully hydrated.