Dentists and golf go together, said David Barton, who has 3,500 of the tooth docs as clients for his financial consulting business.
So when Barton, president of Mercer Advisors, decided to launch a new venture to cater to dentists’ needs to stay abreast of advances in their field, he picked a spot just a chip shot away from the Tournament Players Club in Scottsdale.
The Scottsdale Center for Dentistry takes up about 60,000 square feet of the 100,000 built by California developers Wolff Urban on 10 acres just east of the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Resort and the 36-hole, city-owned golf course that annually hosts the FBR Open.
Wolff Urban, part-owner of the Fairmont before it changed hands a couple of times in the last two years, bid on the 35 acres that stretched from the resort to Scottsdale Road when the state Land Department auctioned it in 2002.
“We felt it was the gateway to the Fairmont,” said David Strong, Wolff Urban principal.
An upscale senior assisted-living developer got dibs on 25 acres at the south end of the property and is slated to start construction later this year, Strong said.
Wolff Urban wanted to build something with Fairmont-compatible architecture on the 10 acres fronting Princess Boulevard.
The company was trying to decide how to develop the vacant land when Mercer showed up, Strong said.
Mercer’s new venture became the centerpiece of the project, now named the Scottsdale Center at the Fairmont Princess, he said.
Wolff Urban has a fine-dining restaurant and an art gallery signed on for space adjacent to the Mercer building, and “several letters of intent” from other potential office and retail tenants, Strong said. The company plans to fill the ground floor with resort-quality shops and the top floor with offices, he said.
Wolff Urban spent $33 million on the Mercer building, Strong said.
Mercer spent another $12 million to outfit it with elegant resort-like decor and the highest-tech features, said Shelli Duncan, vice president of events for the dental center.
Mercer, which has headquarters in both Santa Barbara, Calif., and Scottsdale, provides financial advice, money management and business operations consulting, Barton said. The company has 300 employees and typically calls on dentists around the country to provide financial services and office management and design advice, he said.
But for the new venture, which delves into the actual practice of their profession, Barton decided to assemble a faculty and a state-of-the-art lab and teaching center, and bring dentists there instead. He said its a concept that doesn’t exist for post-dental school training.
“We’ll be the largest provider of dental continuing education in the world,” Barton said.
He said the Scottsdale Center for Dentistry opened in April and is nearly booked full of large and small groups for seminars, meetings and special teaching events.
FILLING HOTEL ROOMS
Barton expects to generate as many as 2,000 minimum two-day visits from out-of-town dentists this year, 4,000 to 6,000 in 2008 and 10,000 a year by 2009.
So in searching for a location to launch the venture, proximity to a luxury resort and golf course and easy access to a major airport were key criteria, he said.
“We’re all about the learning vacation,” Barton said.
Scottsdale offers the amenities the well-heeled professionals like and will help make the center successful, Barton said.
Inside, the Scottsdale Center for Dentistry is so technology laden that the microphones at each of the 280 seats in the stadium are “better than those in the U.S. House of Representatives,” said Gerald McWilliams, technology manager.
At center stage, a state-of-the-art dental chair floats on a cushion of air so it can be easily moved, even hauled off stage, with a gentle tug.
Above the stage a series of video screens can provide the same or different camera angles of a procedure performed, and the same or a different feed can be broadcast to any or all of the 80 screens in the center’s labs, meeting rooms, classrooms and 16 dental “operatories,” McWilliams said.
The whole center — inside and out — has Wi-Fi, of course.
The dental equipment is as advanced as the audio-visual characteristics of the center, McWilliams said, including devices that can make and fit a crown on the spot and cameras that provide an three-dimensional view of every tooth that resembles an MRI.
The operatories are fully-equipped “dental offices of the future,” Duncan said, where dentists can practice new procedures on high-tech fake teeth and jaws or work on their own patients with the assistance of an instructor experienced on the equipment or the procedure.
“Every dentist can visualize what they can do in their own office,” Duncan said, “One of the first things they ask for is a measuring tape.”
And for wind-down time, the center offers an elegant dining room with a catering kitchen, an outdoor amphitheater and a spacious patio with comfy seating, fireplaces, fountains and a bar — all private, but reminiscent of the more elegant Scottsdale watering holes.
Duncan said so many dental groups have booked the place she’s had to turn several away because the space was already committed.
That’s not such good news for Wolff Urban principal Lewis Wolff, owner of the Oakland Athletics.
Wolff hoped to snag the high-tech stadium for a future Major League Baseball owners meeting, Strong said.