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Casino Del Sol: A draw in the desert

Courtesy Casino Del Sol

During a recession, when business barely seems to move, there’s nothing like an expansion to get people talking. And that’s what happened when Casino Del Sol Hotel, Spa and Conference Center opened Dec. 15, 2011, minutes from Tucson International Airport and downtown Tucson on the Pascua Yaqui Reservation.

The project was an addition to the existing Casino Del Sol Casino and its amphitheatre and included a 225-room hotel, a meeting and convention center, a spa, a fitness center, a steakhouse and an expanded pool area.

From the outset, the tribe planned to make meetings part of the mix. The expanded casino resort has some 45,000 square feet of meeting space, including an 18,000-square-foot grand ballroom, two ballrooms in the 12,000-square-foot range that can be divided into three smaller rooms each and several other small meeting spaces.

“Our new project definitely had a positive impact on the area,” said Graeme Hughes, director of convention sales for the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It was built during the period of recession, so there was not much development going on. It grabbed the spotlight and gave us a new story to tell.”

Recession or not, the project would have garnered attention.

“The Pascua Yaqui tribe spared no expense, and the finished result is first rate, from the convention center to the hotel and spa and other amenities, as well,” said Hughes. “The hotel is a stand-alone entity, so meeting attendees do not have to pass through the casino unless they want to.

“Currently under construction is an 18-hole Notah Begay-designed golf course, scheduled to open in the spring,” he said. “And there is going to be a Jack Nicklaus golf academy.”

The CVB uses Smith Travel Research to determine how a project affects an area, and because the resort expansion is less than a year old, he has no firm figures. “It has created a bump,” he said. “Also, clients who have used Tucson as a meeting destination are excited to have another product.”