by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | February 01, 2006

the cosmopolitan

Night lights: A rendering of The Cosmopolitan

When the new $1.8 billion Cosmopolitan opens on the Las Vegas Strip in mid-2008, it should be well prepared to battle its many competitors for meetings business.
    Chicago-based Global Hyatt Corp., which has been picked to manage the 3,000-room casino-hotel, and 3700 Associates LLC, developers based in New York City and Miami, are designing the project with groups in mind. This past December, the two partners invited eight senior meeting planners to a closed-door presentation of The Cosmopolitan’s preliminary architectural layout, as well as the retail and food and beverage options under consideration.
    The participants approved of the 150,000 square feet of meeting space, the 70,000-square-foot casino and the 300,000 square feet of luxury retail on multiple levels. But it was nuts-and-bolts issues that drove a lively Q&A session.
    For Fenton, Mo.-based Mary Clare Darland, a travel buyer for Maritz Travel, luggage transfer was a concern. “How will group bags be pulled and stored so they don’t get mixed up with the luggage of transient guests?” she asked. 
    The suggestion that bags could be stored in the meeting area until transfer did not sit well with Michael Barratt, CMP, vice president of meetings for the Bethesda, Md.-based Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association. “I might need that meeting space for something else, and I have to allocate it to luggage?” he mused. 
    When it came to ballroom design, “Chandeliers can be gorgeous, but what we really need is ceiling height,” noted Julie Zimmerman, meeting planner consultant for Des Moines, Iowa-based Principal Financial Group.
    What drove the most interaction, however, was the topic of F&B. When Bill Temper, Las Vegas-based vice president of hotel operations for 3700 Associates, asked if an in-house celebrity chef’s involvement in banquet planning and execution would give The Cosmopolitan an edge, the answer was a resounding “no.” Planners worried about quality control and consistency. 
    “I need the hotel to take ownership of my food and beverage dollars,” said Tim McKenna, CMP, senior manager, strategic procurement,  for Carlson Marketing, based in Minneapolis. “I would hate to have everything not in control of the hotel, which is who I have my contract with.”
    The concept of a third-party involvement in food service could prove a hard sell, the hotel chain conceded. “Hyatt is known for its quality of F&B,” said Robert Purdy, Chicago-based executive director of salesresorts for Hyatt Hotels & Resorts. “If we give up ownership, I would be very concerned about diluting the brand.”
    The upshot of this unusual roundtable give-and-take? Back to the drawing board.