The proposed water sports destination resort Waveyard would fill up an estimated 400,000 hotel room nights a year, enough to pack inns throughout the East Valley, Mesa tourism leaders say.
“That’s more on an annual basis than spring training or the Fiesta Bowl generate,” said Robert Brinton, executive director of the Mesa Convention & Visitors Bureau. “This thing will mean hundreds of thousands of room nights a year, and we can’t even capture half of those in Mesa. This is big. It will help the whole East Valley substantially.”
That’s why the tourism bureau threw its clout and its cash into the proposed $250 million project.
The group voted to give the city back half the bed tax generated by the project’s planned 320-room hotel and rentable condos for up to 20 years — a deal worth an estimated $8 million.
Maybe more. Waveyard developers predict the attraction will generate double the room nights the bureau is expecting.
Waveyard, which faces a citywide vote in November before it’s a lock, is a proposed water-focused, entertainment-retail-conference center-resort development pegged to be built on 120 acres southeast of the Loops 101 and 202 interchange, adjacent to the under-construction Riverview retail and restaurant district. It is pegged to feature such water-focused activities as kayaking, surfing, snorkeling, Scuba diving and other adventurous pursuits that, despite balmy weather, the beach-less Valley can’t offer visitors now.
Mesa officials already stepped to the plate to persuade Waveyard developers to “choose me” over a West Valley site, by proffering a cheap price — $30 million — for the city-owned land and sales tax rebates to pay for two-thirds of that.
The tourism leaders could have taken a pass, but elected to add bed tax rebates to the pot.
That would mean visitors would pay a big chunk of the tab, since only hotel guests are charged bed tax. The bureau would rebate the bed tax to the city — not the Waveyard developers — to help pay off the land.
Waveyard developers also, as part of the deal, agreed to joint marketing programs with Mesa hotels, Brinton said. That will bring national notice — finally — to Mesa, said Phil Kellis, partner in the Dobson Inn and Mezona Inn.
Hoteliers like Kellis are already eyeing the expected boost to their bottom line.
“This will be a new front door for Mesa,” he said. “Mesa has not seemed to be able to get anything of quality. Everything has gone around us. Now it’s our turn to benefit. This will make Mesa a true destination.”
Kellis said the Waveyard would give Mesa something other Valley municipalities strive for — a real summer tourism business.
And it will remind vacationers and those looking to stage a business conference in a desirable resort location that Scottsdale isn’t the only Valley hot spot.
“It will put us on the map, and it will help every hotel in Mesa,” Kellis added. “Sleepy Mesa will finally have a resort atmosphere.”
Gary Levine, general manager of the Hilton Phoenix East/Mesa, which added Phoenix to its name because too many would-be visitors never heard of Mesa, agreed.
“Waveyard will be a great asset for Mesa,” Levine said.
The Mesa hoteliers expect occupancy — the percentage of available rooms actually booked — and average daily rate — the price tourists pay to stay in those rooms, will increase for all Mesa hotels if Waveyard is a go.
The Mesa Convention & Visitors Bureau has committed bed tax funds in the past to market city-owned attractions. That includes the Mesa Arts Center and the presumed-dead Aquatic Center.
In comparison, the Aquatic Center was expected to generate about 15,000 room nights a year, and the Mesa Arts Center, 1,000, Brinton said.