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Reinvented resort towers in Texas

Photos courtesy La Torretta Lake Resort and Spa

La Torretta Lake Resort and Spa, on the shore of Lake Conroe an hour north of Houston, is a reincarnation.

Outside Montgomery, Texas, the resort, now a AAA Four Diamond property, was previously the popular Del Lago resort, which fell upon hard times about 10 years ago.

“Del Lago used to be the local hot spot on the lake in the mid-1990s,” said Lauren Dunnaway, director of sales. “People came by boat. There was a huge bar where one of our ballrooms is now. But the area wasn’t growing.”

Montgomery’s two square miles has a population of 600, although the surrounding area encompasses more than 50,000.

“9-11 also hurt business,” said Dunnaway. “Del Lago [which means “the lake” in Spanish] deteriorated until 2006, when it closed and sat empty.”

Barclay Bank, now sole owner, and another buyer bought the property in 2008 and renovated it at a cost of $130 million, taking the hotel and its conference center down to the studs.

New name, new challenges
When it reopened, the resort had a new name and a new set of challenges.

“La Torretta opened in 2009 during the worst recession since the Great Depression,” said Dunnaway. “Also, we are independent, and most of our competition has a national brand backing them.”

After a rocky start, business is turning around, and group business is much of the reason. Some 70 percent of the resort’s business is groups, mostly corporate meetings from the Houston area. The average meeting size is 50 rooms or less.

“We are looking to grow our religious, education and sports markets in 2014-2015,” said Dunnaway.

Summer is mostly for leisure business, but come September, corporations start meeting at the resort.

“The place can have five, 10, 12 meetings in a day, but each group gets its own dedicated conference planner,” said Dunnaway.

“This past year has been a banner year, with a 35 percent increase over last year,” said Dunnaway. “We see ourselves as the hottest thing on the market right now.”

The resort’s new name, Italian for “the tower,” is accurate. Its 307 suites, all with balconies and lake views, are in a 20-story tower.

Accommodations also include 102 golf cottages and 36 lake villas.

The new owners also added new amenities: an outdoor water park that covers more than three acres, a 17,000-square-foot spa that is one of the Houston area’s largest and a redesigned golf course.

“Our architecture is not the usual Texas stone and cedar,” said Dunnaway. “It has a European flair with simplistic function.”