Opulent resorts spend big on upgrades to beckon guests
By Mike Butler
Airpark-area resorts are the pistons of the region’s tourism engine, racing to attract individual leisure travelers and corporate teams by the hordes, especially now that the Valley’s cultural and sporting events, known as “The Season,” are shifting into high gear.
To stay or get into the upper tier of the highly competitive luxury market, resorts start swinging the wrecking ball periodically and invest millions to modernize guest suites and renovate amenities, such as pools, restaurants and spas.
Often, these upgrades are accompanied by major rebranding efforts, which used to be called a name change back in simpler times.
Telling the limo driver to go to the Scottsdale Resort & Conference Center, for instance, could cause some confusion, as it is has been rechristened The Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch.
And don’t mix that up with the McCormick Scottsdale, formerly known as The Millennium.
Here’s a scorecard of a few of the most impressive enhancements.
Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch, A Destination Hotel
7700 E. McCormick Pkwy.
You can call it The Scottsdale, for short, which shut down for most of the summer of 2015 to conduct a massive $10 million renovation.
The resort makes a grand first impression to guests as they enter the renovated lobby, appointed with all new furniture, decor and accessories. From there, the new Bar Six40 beckons, named after the number of acres of land that Army Chaplain Winfield Scott presciently purchased in 1888. The Scottsdale itself occupies a sliver of the large tract of land ranched by Anne and Fowler McCormick in the 1940s and ’50s.
Bar Six40 serves local coffee, fresh juices and light breakfast in the morning and afternoon. As the day winds down, guests can enjoy craft beers and wine along with delicious bites from the new Kitchen West, headed by executive chef Rick Dupere.
Guests who feel like escaping the hubbub of the lobby can slip out to Bennie’s Courtyard, named after original architect Bennie Gonzales, and relax by one of the new fire pits or the large fireplace.
Like many upscale hotels and meeting destinations, The Scottsdale offers more than one pool. The centrally located McCormick Pool area was enlarged 2.5 times and completely refurbished. Rent one of the eight new private cabanas and enjoy the upgraded water features. The main pool has its own full-service restaurant and bar, Twisted Vine. The Stillman Pool is a little more off the beaten path, along the 18th fairway of McCormick Ranch Golf Club’s Palm Course. Of course, the Luna Spa offers a multitude of services and treatments to refresh body and soul.
The Scottsdale’s 326 guest rooms and suites have the relaxed vibe of residential haciendas. The property’s 54 king rooms have been completely renovated, and 76 of the double-queen rooms were converted to kings. Private patios were added to 20 first-floor guestrooms and provide access to the main pool.
Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
7575 E. Princess Drive
“The only thing we didn’t have that may be on your travel checklist was a beach. Now you can check that off, too,” says Jack Miller, general manager of this iconic Airpark resort, set against the backdrop of the McDowell Mountains.
An absolute stunner, the new Sunset Beach features an expansive white-sand beach with a zero-depth entry that eases into a 7,000-square-foot pool. You could spend a week or two splashing around Sunset Beach and forget that the tennis courts were once there and that the Princess has five other pools.
In addition to the pool, the resort’s recent westward expansion added 102 guest rooms to 648 existing rooms, and created the Great Lawn and a revamped Western town venue. New rooms are consistent with the hotel’s contemporary Southwest décor, and feature patios or balconies.
This follows the complete 2014 remodeling of the resort’s 120 secluded Casitas. These VIP meeting spaces and lodgings come in three flavors: the 750-square-foot Casita Signature; the Casita Suite at 850-square-feet, with a separate living room and one or two bedrooms; and the Casita Hospitality Suites, which pack a kitchen, boardroom table, and a queen Murphy bed into 1,150 square feet. All of the casitas have patios or balconies and many have views of TPC Scottsdale.
The Princess’ 1880s Western town, called Copper Canyon, is a fun venue for corporate retreats and other private events. The town sports two saloons, an outdoor stage and dance floor, a blacksmith shop, a general store, a sheriff’s office and a jail, into which you can throw the IT manager and, perhaps, the graphic-design staffers. But beware: There’s also an undertaker’s storefront.
The aptly named Great Lawn is a 35,000-square-foot grassy area that can be used for team-building experiences and creative noodling. It also provides a memorable wedding venue, accommodating 1,500 guests for dinner or 2,000 for the reception.
As always, Princess guests and neighboring Airpark residents are well-served by Ironwood American Kitchen, Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak and Richard Sandoval’s La Hacienda and Toro Latin Restaurant & Rum Bar.
The McCormick Scottsdale
7401 N Scottsdale Rd
Set on the scenic shores of Camelback Lake, the McCormick is a relatively intimate retreat and a convenient location for guests who want easy access to the world-class shopping of North Scottsdale and Paradise Valley, or the art galleries and other attractions of downtown Scottsdale.
The hotel recently refurbished all 125 guest rooms, which included new bathrooms and upgrades of the entertainment systems. The lobby and 13,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space also got a refresh.
Affordable guest rooms are arranged around a serene courtyard or take advantage of lakeside and mountain views. Premier Millennium suites are a spacious 525 square feet and feature roomy living parlors.
The property’s Pinon Grill serves up tasty fusion dishes, such as crispy wonton nachos. Dine indoors or request a lakeside table.