SALT LAKE CITY — The Wasatch Front’s much-anticipated convention center hotel isn’t even built yet, but it’s already paying dividends.
One year after breaking ground, the Hyatt Regency Salt Lake City is on pace for its scheduled completion in October 2022.
Construction is completed through level three and the podium steel erection is set to begin later this month. The installation of the exterior façade will take place during the first quarter of the new year, which will include escalators on meeting room levels being hoisted into place. Vertical construction is slated to continue over the next several months with topping out of the project expected at the end of the year.
“Seeing the Hyatt Regency Salt Lake City taking shape is both exciting and promising for Salt Lake’s meeting and convention future and the recovery of our visitor economy from the devastating effects of COVID-19,” said Kaitlin Eskelson, president and CEO of Visit Salt Lake. “Our sales team will soon have everything meeting professionals want, and they’re working hard to fill this new property and the many others throughout our community to ensure the long-term success of Salt Lake’s hospitality community.”
At an estimated cost of $377 million, the 25-story 700-room upscale hotel will adjoin the Salt Palace Convention Center providing approximately 60,000 square feet of additional indoor meeting space, a 22,915-square-foot grand ballroom, along with a 14,689-square-foot junior ballroom, as well as 7,413 square feet of outdoor event space.
She said since the groundbreaking in January 2020, Visit Salt Lake has secured over a dozen large conventions that would have otherwise not considered Salt Lake City.
“We do have things on the books as early as 2022, but the way our booking cadence rolls out, we actually have things on the books as late as 2028,” she said. In the past five weeks, the organization has secured Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers in November 2023 and the National Association of School Psychologists in February 2028.
The attendees of those two conventions are expected to spend over $14 million while in Salt Lake City, she said. Working closely with the Hyatt Regency’s national sales and marketing team, Visit Salt Lake is meeting with targeted potential clients around the country on a daily basis, she said.
“The whole premise behind getting this convention hotel and why it was such a critical piece is that we were the last destination within what we call our (regional competition) to have one,” Eskelson explained. “As soon as you have that attached product, it’s a game-changer.”
Despite the global pandemic and resulting economic downturn, Visit Salt Lake had its third-best booking year in 2020, thanks in large part to the imminent construction of the convention hotel, she said.
For many years, the missing piece of Salt Lake’s convention package was the absence of a large, name-brand hotel connected to the Salt Palace Convention Center, Eskelson said. “Almost all of the cities that Salt Lake is competing against have one or more of these convention hotels, so we were at a significant disadvantage,” she said.
When the Hyatt Regency Salt Lake City was announced, the Visit Salt Lake sales team immediately contacted those large convention planners who could now be accommodated, she said. Despite the positive outlook touted by the local convention industry, some nearby hotel properties expressed concerns that a large convention hotel would take away business from other smaller lodging destinations.
Eskelson said while she understands those concerns, she is confident the new hotel will help support others in the vicinity prosper as well.
“Our mission is to sell that inclusive downtown package. The benefit is that ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’ and what it’s going to do is get us to the forefront and into a different level in the minds of meeting planners that we haven’t touched before,” she said. “I do believe that just by way of that (circumstance) it’s going to rise and it’s really going to bring everyone up.”
While attracting new conventions to the Salt Lake area is a high priority, she also noted that some effort will be put into regaining the business of one of the premier trade shows in the nation that had called Utah home for over two decades.
In 2017, Emerald Expositions — owners of the Outdoor Retailer Summer and Winter Markets — asked Visit Salt Lake to grant the show an early release from its contract to host the biannual event after 22 years in Utah, then subsequently moved to Denver where it currently resides.
At the time, organizers of Outdoor Retailer cited philosophical differences with state policymakers regarding the use of public lands — taking with them millions of dollars in spending and tax revenues. Now, Eskelson believes the time could be right to attempt to reestablish that relationship if the opportunity presents itself.
With the completion of the new Salt Lake City International Airport and the new hotel coming online later next year, Salt Lake City is in a position to make a strong case for Outdoor Retailer returning to the Beehive State.
“I don’t know the specifics on a contract with Denver, but I will tell you that it’s not off the table,” Eskelson said. “I’d be willing to say if they put out a bid, we would 1,000% bid on it.”