The developer of the delayed Gaylord resort in Mesa has announced plans for another massive resort in Colorado, making it possible the projects could compete against each other.
Gaylord Entertainment's plan for an $800 million, 1,500-room resort in Aurora, Colo., is on the same scale of the resort that's been planned in Mesa since 2008.
Mesa has been the only publicly announced expansion site for Gaylord since shortly after the company revealed its Arizona intentions. City officials said they found comfort in that exclusive status. After hearing of the Colorado proposal, Mesa Mayor Scott Smith acknowledged Gaylord can only build so much at once.
"When you have a company like Gaylord, it would be a challenge to build two resorts of that size at exactly the same time," Smith said.
Gaylord plans to begin its Colorado resort in 2012 and open it in 2015. Last year, Mesa granted an extension to a contract with Gaylord that requires construction to begin by December 2014 and completion in December 2017.
The Tennessee-based Gaylord has sought a western location for its chain of resorts, which attract convention groups that sometimes like to rotate through all of the company's properties. Gaylord cited Denver's high growth rate and top 10 destination status among event planners as reasons for choosing a Colorado site.
The company's growth plans were battered during the recession, as business meetings and conventions are a large portion of Gaylord's visitors. That market plummeted and it will be slow to recover because corporate events are often booked several years in advance.
Smith said the factors delaying the Mesa site apply to the Aurora one as well.
"I think that Denver will not have a significant impact one way or another," Smith said. "The economy will have the impact. If the economy were to recover tomorrow, Mesa would be right at the top regardless of Denver. And I think we would be the preferred location."
The Colorado resort's financial package is similar to the one Mesa voters approved in 2009. In both cases, Gaylord would keep the bed tax generated on the property to fund the construction. Gaylord would get the incentives only if it opened the resort on a portion of the former General Motors Proving Grounds site in east Mesa.
Gaylord did not respond to interview requests. The company previously cited the travel industry's health as the key factor in moving forward with its Mesa plans.
Smith said Gaylord is farther along in its Mesa planning than in Aurora, and that the Colorado proposal is more complex.
The Gaylord would be Arizona's largest resort, with 1 million visitors a year and 4,000 employees.