Chandler could land an Arizona exclusive — a Renaissance Club Sport, hotel giant Marriott International’s newest concept.
Marriott is talking with developers about building a 240-room, full-service hotel with complete aquatic and fitness center in the empty field south of Chandler Fashion Center, said Steve Hart, general manager of the Desert Ridge Resort and marketing vice president for Arizona.
A deal is close but not done, he said. If the Renaissance Club Sport does get the go-ahead, it would be 12 to 18 months before guests could start booking their fitness-focused stays, he said.
Meanwhile, Marriott International chairman and CEO J.W. Marriott Jr. was in the Valley on Thursday to talk about another local first — the J.W. Marriott Resort at Desert Ridge.
The northeast Phoenix property is the first in Arizona and the 25th nationwide for the brand designed to forge a luxury level between the Marriott and Ritz Carlton properties. The $300 million, 950-room hotel — Arizona’s largest —opened Nov. 30. It has already booked 450,000 room nights, some as far in the future as 2009, Marriott said.
The Phoenix resort is Marriott International’s 2,500th hotel worldwide, and the 42nd in the Valley, the company leader said. Marriott International brands include Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Renaissance, Courtyard, Fairfield Inn, SpringHill Suites, Residence Inn and TownePlace Suites.
While Marriott said his namesake inn is bringing groups to Arizona that wouldn’t have come if the new large-capacity resort didn’t exist, he said plans for a downtown Phoenix hotel are dead for the time being.
Hart said the fate of the stalled Civic Center Plaza expansion |would determine whether plans for a downtown Marriott would be resurrected.
Marriott said that despite the positive performance of the Desert Ridge resort, the hotel industry is in bad shape nationwide. “This the worst travel recession I’ve seen in the 47 years I’ve been in the business,” he said. The war is now the biggest factor in determining when recovery will happen, he said.
Marriott International CFO Arne Sorenson said that for the first quarter, which ends today, Marriott room revenue will be about the same as the first quarter last year. Sorensen said, however, that first quarter last year was a dismal period, with tourism still reeling in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“We’re still slogging through a tough environment,” he said. Still, James Seneff, chairman for CNL Financial Group, majority financial backer of the Desert Ridge resort, said his company plans to invest $1 billion in hotel properties this year. And Marriott said he is opening new hotels to prepare for the future, which will feature a new middle class of travelers arising in China and India.
In Arizona, expansion plans include a luxury resort in Tucson and possibly the Chandler hotel.
Marriott opened the first Renaissance Club Sport in Walnut Creek, Calif., in November. It is aimed at group, business and leisure guests who want a more robust sports experience than what is available at typical full-service hotels.
The California version has an 85,000-square-foot fitness facility with weight and cardio equipment, five exercise studios with group classes in step, cycling, yoga, pilates, tai chi, kickboxing, aerobics, stretching, and strengthening, two full-sized basketball courts, racquetball, handball and squash courts, a three-pool aquatic center and full-service spa. The luxury hotel also has typical amenities, including meeting rooms, restaurants and lounges.
Two years ago, Chandler zoned the site, which is west of the loop-101 and south of Chandler Blvd., for a 12-story, full-service hotel with conference space and up to 300 guest rooms. The city was working with several developers, said Garrett Newland, Chandler’s economic development director, but the sagging economy stalled progress.
“That project has not been on the front burner,” Newland said.