AURORA | The Gaylord Rockies is still more than a year from opening — a moment city leaders say will change the face of Aurora’s business scene — but already the hulking hotel and conference center’s staff is taking shape.
Late last month Gaylord tapped one of their longtime hotel bosses to lead the massive hotel in northeast Aurora: Rick Medwedeff, general manager of the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort in Florida, will helm the Aurora project when it opens sometime in late 2018 or early 2019.
According to Medwedeff’s Linkedin account, he has been with Marriott — which is developing the Gaylord Rockies — for more than 30 years.
Medwedeff’s hire was first reported in the Marco Eagle in late October.
Gaylord officials declined this week to make Medwedeff available for an interview and a spokeswoman for the company at their Nashville headquarters said he would take the helm of the Aurora location sometime early next year.
In the Marco Eagle article, Medwedeff said he would only leave his job at the Marriott on Marco Island — a post he has held for 12 years — for something like Gaylord Rockies, which is at the moment the biggest hotel under construction in the country.
“It was very important to me to stay in the convention/resort network. They are typically the highest volume of business, and the most complex to run.
“I wouldn’t have left for anything less. I love everything about this job here. But this opportunity was truly unique – something I couldn’t pass up,” he said, according to the paper. “It had to be something spectacular. This allows me to fulfill my career aspirations.”
Medwedeff’s time at the Marriott Marco Island included a $320 million renovation there unveiled early this year.
“As we move forward into the next chapter of our resort’s story, we are embracing our celebrated past and welcoming a new level of luxury by joining JW Marriott’s global portfolio of exceptional properties,” he said in a statement earlier this year announcing the renovation.
That hotel now boasts more than 700 rooms, a hefty number but one dwarfed by the massive Aurora project.
Gaylord Rockies will have 1,500 rooms and close to 2 million square feet of hotel, retail and convention space spread across 85-acres south of Denver International Airport.
Already, the project is expected to employ about 10,000 people during construction and thousands more when it opens.
Early this year, local economic development officials said land purchased by Rida Development Corp., the lead developer behind Gaylord, would be used to build additional hotels, retail business and restaurants. Rida in late 2016 purchased 130 acres near the hotel for $9.23 million, according to the Colorado Real Estate Journal. The swath of land is near Himalaya Road and East 64th Ave.
Early this year officials said the hotel has already booked almost 400,000 rooms.
Company officials this week declined to release updated figures.
In an announcement last year, company officials said the conferences and businesses booking space at Gaylord are almost all — 88 percent — bringing their conference to Colorado for the first time.
The hotel hosted a ceremonial groundbreaking in early 2016, a moment that had for years seemed like a distant dream as the project sputtered along.
After the city’s boisterous announcement in 2011 that Nashville-based Gaylord had chosen Aurora for its next hotel and conference center, the project appeared to be the sort of marquis development city officials had clamored after for decades.
But with more than $300 million in city and state tax incentives to be handed to the developer, the project raised some hackles even early on.
The plan initially envisioned the National Western Stock Show moving to an adjacent plot of land. Denver officials leery of losing the iconic stock show quickly nixed that move.
Then, in 2012, Gaylord Entertainment said they were getting out of the hotel development business and selling the four Gaylord hotels to Marriott.