An 'economic driver' rises below flanks of Tortolitas - Tucson Local Media: Business

An 'economic driver' rises below flanks of Tortolitas

Resort will be open in the fall

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Posted: Tuesday, June 16, 2009 11:00 pm | Updated: 1:23 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain, is a construction beehive.

On a mid-June day, there are 350 construction workers on the north Marana resort property, building and finishing the $200 million-plus hotel, resort and spa that has world-class aspirations — and intends to fulfill them.

The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain management team and other employees are moving into the hotel complex between July 15 and Aug. 1, according to general manager Michael McMahon.

Opening dates are less certain. The hotel should be "complete and turned over to us in October," McMahon said last week. "It will be opened sometime in the fall this year."

There is much to do before the opening. "We've got our plate full," McMahon said. Already, though, "we've actually booked our first wedding," for 80 people next April.

The Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain is "a significant economic development for Marana, and for Southern Arizona," McMahon said.

"Highly talented" people from throughout the Ritz-Carlton company are coming to Dove Mountain, and they've already worked on its development. New directors of engineering and human resources are about to start on the property. There'll be roughly 35 managers in the hotel, and 450 "ladies and gentlemen," which is what Ritz-Carlton calls its employees.

"The impact of those jobs" in the region is significant, McMahon said, perhaps more so when some hotel companies have been cutting jobs during economic decline. "It really is a tremendous economic driver for this area," he said, increasing demand for air and ground transportation services, as an example, and creating work for laundry companies and numerous suppliers. Add in property, sales and lodging taxes, and the money "all goes back into supporting the community of Marana and the state of Arizona."

Since the Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain Golf Club opened in January, it has employed more than 100 people. The World Golf Championships Accenture Match Play tournament, with Tiger Woods back on tour for the first time since knee surgery, was played on the new Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course in February, generating attention from across the planet.

"We have to capitalize on the buzz, the mystique created around the Accenture tournament every year," McMahon said. "The golf is a great aspect. We have incredible golf here."

But the golf isn't the only thing that's great.

"We, the Ritz-Carlton, have been looking at this market for 20 years," said McMahon, a veteran of the company and long active in the resort and golf industries who has been working on the property for 10 months.

The company believes that, "because of the unique aspects of this desert lifestyle that exist only in southern Arizona," greater Tucson is "an emerging market. We want to be here. "Until this project, none of the other projects made sense for us," he said.

Along came the Dove Mountain property, large enough at 850 acres, and within an "incredible saguaro cactus forest."

The property "gave us the ability to create a truly unique desert resort environment," with "all the aspects" for groups, special events and the individual traveler seeking "a spirit of adventure."

"Adventure has many different meanings to many different people," McMahon said. "It could be a culinary adventure, it could be a golf adventure, it could be nature that you've never experienced before."

Dove Mountain offers the true seasons of the Sonoran Desert, from the springtime saguaro flowers, to the upcoming monsoon, to winter "crisp and clear and spectacular. So many elements of adventure are available to you. That's what appeals to us."

Great resorts have common elements, among them spa experiences, high-quality golf, tennis, a variety of sleeping arrangements and good restaurants. The Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain adds in a water slide and multiple swimming pools, and family activities from hiking to bird-watching, mountain biking to petroglyphs viewing.

"We have all these elements, and we have this incredible adventure experience," McMahon said.

It's already catching on. The Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau has been "incredibly supportive," McMahon said, providing group meeting leads and press buzz. "It's something new and fresh and different to talk about and sell," he said.

On Friday, a writer from the publication Cigar Aficianado was at the Ritz Carlton, writing a story about the resort and hotel, the golf and cigars. There were some 200 golfers on the Ritz-Carlton course on Friday, "And I'd bet 190 are from Arizona. It's a strategy to get golfers out here, and they're going to come from our own backyard. The golf numbers have been terrific." The "covers," or dining tables, are growing at Cayton's restaurant. That, despite an economic rough patch.

"We still feel like we're in a good place," McMahon said. "We're going to open into a recovery. No one's sure how strong the recovery will be."

Ritz-Carlton has more than 20 resort hotels. "They are all great facilities. A few stand out. This one will be a special facility. There's nothing we don't have." It'll quickly attract loyal Ritz-Carlton customers.

"You have to understand what the resort customers are looking for, and create the conversation, and the right dialogue, to get your customers interested in it," McMahon said. "You describe what the dream is going to be like, and then you have to deliver it."

It'll also be public, he emphasized.

"David Mehl has an incredible vision for what he wants to do here," McMahon said of the developer. "Part of it is the inclusion of the community. The restaurants and the spa will always be open to the public." A new hiking trailhead is being built on the property.

When Michael McMahon talks about the Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain, he uses the descriptive "world class."

"Absolutely," McMahon said. He wants to pursue the highest ratings from Exxon Mobil and AAA. Those rankings take time to achieve.

"The idea is to grow the pie, not to carve up the existing brand" of Tucson and Southern Arizona, he said. "It's to increase demand for the destination. We're seeing that happen."

The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain

• Cost of the project – more than $200 million.

• 850 acres

• 250 guest rooms

• Marriott International and Cottonwood Properties are 50-50 joint venture partners of The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain.

• The Resort and Spa are managed by The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, LLC

• Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course

• Four restaurants, including the now-open Cayton's

The Ritz Carlton, Dove Mountain features …

… Nine buildings behind the main complex that shall house 27 "casitas," quarters intended for "probably more of a leisure guest," among them entertainers, sports celebrities and multi-generational families. There are 13 1-bedroom casitas, 13 2-bedroom, and one 4-bedroom designed for golfers on "the perfect foursome trip.

"They're very private, in a very tranquil area with great privacy," general manager Michael McMahon said.

… a 17,000 square foot spa and wellness center, The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Dove Mountain.

… three ballrooms, of 9,000, 5,000 and 2,400 square feet.

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