Gaylord mum on Aurora hotel future, leaders say deal isn’t dead yet


AURORA | Gaylord Entertainment today announced the company’s second quarter earnings for investors and made no direct mention of the Aurora hotel’s future, but local officials say that doesn’t necessarily mean the deal is dead to them.

Wendy Mitchell, president and chief executive of the Aurora Economic Development Council, said Gaylord officials have not officially pulled the plug on the 1,500-room project.

“Right now it’s on until we’re officially notified that it’s not, and we have not been officially notified that it’s not,” she said.

Gaylord had lobbied state and local governments for taxpayer help to build a $824 million Western-themed hotel and convention center in Aurora before announcing in May that the division handling the development was sold to Marriott International, Inc. City and state officials offered nearly $400 million in rebates and incentives.

After the sale, Gaylord officials said the company would continue working on the project with “minimal financial commitment.”

The company reaffirmed that position in a statement about the quarterly earnings report, saying they “will no longer view large scale development of resort and convention center hotels as a means for growth. As a result, the Company will not proceed with its previously announced development projects in the form previously anticipated.”

Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan said Gaylord’s quarterly earnings report was just that — a quarterly earnings report.

“Obviously we’ll be having conversations with Gaylord now to find out what the next steps are,” he said.

He said he won’t know what the project status is until he has those conversations.

Under the proposed new company structure — set to be finalized in September — Gaylord Entertainment wouldn’t be able to build the project, so city officials would have to find another developer to agree to move the project forward, Mitchell said.

“What we’d have to find is someone that’s capable of building this size of project,” she said.

The AEDC is already working on that, she said. Her staff has worked with Gaylord officials to create a project briefing booklet to start marketing to developers.

Mitchell said she won’t give up hope on the project until she receives word that it’s been abandoned.

“My job is to work every single angle on this thing as long as it still has legs, and as long as it’s viable,” she said. “I will do that until the moment I’m notified that there’s no longer a deal.”

That moment could come on Sept. 18, which the deadline to finalize negotiations between Gaylord and the Colorado Economic Development Commission, which awarded the company state tourism money shortly before it announced the Marriott deal.

The commissioners awarded the project about $81 million over 30 years to help build the project, and the city of Aurora offered an additional $300 million in tax rebates to help build the project.

The Gaylord Hotels brand, along with the rights to manage its four resort hotels, was sold to Marriott for $210 million May 31.

Under the deal, Gaylord would continue to own its hotel properties and would reorganize itself to become a real estate investment trust as of Jan. 2013, focused mostly on group-oriented destination hotels in urban and resort markets, according to a statement.

The deal with Marriott is expected to be finalized at a special meeting of shareholders on Sept. 19.