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Gaylord Opryland Texas Benefiting from Lessons Learned
 from Gaylord Palms Resort; Adds New
 Entertainment Options

By Suzanne Marta, The Dallas Morning News
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News 

Nov. 13, 2003 - GRAPEVINE, Texas--Gaylord Opryland Texas will add a 20,000-square-foot entertainment complex to its $500 million Grapevine hotel and resort scheduled to open next spring. 

The $11 million project reflects the growing importance entertainment has for luring conventions. 

"Anyone can have meeting space," said John Imaizumi, Opryland Texas' senior vice president and general manager. "Customers said they wanted more entertainment." 

The Glass Cactus is the third entertainment addition Nashville-based Gaylord Entertainment Co. has made in the last 18 months. 

The company spent an extra $5 million to change the "Governor's Mansion" a series of presidential-style suites under the hotel's main atrium into a high-tech sports bar. And it spent $500,000 to add a 2-acre lawn area to host events for 3,000. 

Mr. Imaizumi said the additions were prompted by lessons learned from its Orlando-area property, the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center. 

Gaylord started the two hotels around the same time, but delayed the opening of Opryland Texas by a year to April 2004 to devote its resources to the Florida project. 

"We were able to learn by living through the Palms experience," Mr. Imaizumi said. 

Opryland Texas' focus on entertainment reflects the latest iteration of what makes a "full-service" convention hotel, said Steven Hacker, president of the Dallas-based International Association for Exhibition Management. 

"It expands the hotel's capabilities beyond just a place to sleep or have a meeting," he said. 

Once an afterthought, entertainment has become a high priority for meeting planners as they try to attract attendees. The Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau has watched its position as a top convention spot slip because of competition from cities, such as Las Vegas, that are better known as entertainment destinations. 

Crews are slated to begin construction on the Glass Cactus which will overlook Lake Grapevine and accommodate groups of 3,000 this year. It will open by the end of 2004. The venue will offer live music, dancing and 300 lakeside deck seats. 

Pre-bookings continue to be strong for Opryland Texas, which with more than 1,500 rooms and 400,000 square feet of meeting space is expected to be a convention powerhouse in the region. 

The complex already has 530,000 room nights booked during its first 10 years and 1.1 million room nights under negotiation, said Robert McPherrin, vice president of sales and marketing. Occupancy is expected to reach 70 percent during its first 12 months and 80 percent as early as 2007. 

That's significantly higher than the sluggish Dallas market, which was at 53.8 percent for the first nine months of this year, according to Smith Travel Research. 

-----To see more of The Dallas Morning News, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.dallasnews.com. 

(c) 2003, The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. GET, 


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