Sunday, November 6, 2011

Fountain Hills CopperWynd resort reopens

CopperWynd Resort and Club, a Fountain Hills hotel with views of the McDowell Mountains, used to be geared toward those willing to pay big bucks for all the "bells and whistles one could imagine."

But times have changed, and after closing in 2009, the resort has reopened "leaner and meaner" and ready to welcome more cost-conscious guests.

"A large portion of the population doesn't really want to pay top dollar for all the frills, and this works out well," said Jeff Locke, resort spokesman. "It really appears like a luxurious kind of place, but now the rates are a heck of a lot more reasonable and the fact that there's no room service doesn't make any difference to the views."

CopperWynd, located on Eagle Ridge Drive north of Palisades Boulevard, encompasses 10 acres, with 32 European-inspired guest rooms, an upscale restaurant, spa, fitness center, and tennis and pool areas. It is owned by Scottsdale-based Sun Tech Development LLC and managed by Pinnacle Diversified.

"It was pretty much a high-end boutique resort," Locke said. "Essentially, it operated under that mode up until 2008 when things got kind of rocky in that arena. It actually closed down in May 2009, and they were kind of thinking it was a done deal."

Sun Tech was able to gain some new investors and reopened the resort in November of last year, then shut down this summer. It is now open again for the winter tourism season.

"Instead of trying to limp along in the summer, they just close down and tennis members can still play and the health club and spa are still open, but the rooms and restaurant close to save a few bucks when it's slow," Locke said. "It's located in a residential neighborhood, so there's not much drive-by traffic. You need to know it's there to find it."

The resort debuted in 1999 to much fanfare. Frank Ferrara, president and CEO of the Fountain Hills Chamber of Commerce, called it the "jewel" of Fountain Hills.

"Of course, the economy dictates, but we are certain that after the economy turns around, it will regain its status, if not more so, than it had in the past," Ferrara said. "We are very happy to know that it's up and running and open for business."

Room rates have been slashed to fit more budget-minded visitors. Rates now top out at $299 a night, whereas before the recession, rates were above $400, Locke said.

"There also wasn't a lot in terms of special rates and promotions, and now we have an e-mail database, we're on Facebook and Twitter, and we'll send out two-for-one deals for the restaurant and resort," he said. "We'll package together some things, like rooms with the restaurant, and a stay-and-spa package."

Guests can dine at Alchemy, the resort's upscale restaurant, and there's a market cafe where premade food and snacks are available. However, there's no more room service, reducing the number of employees.

"It's one of those things where they're thinking we're going to have to come back into the market in more of a lean-and-mean status because with 32 rooms, it's kind of hard to keep all of those services available for such a small room capacity," Locke said.

Occupancy remains soft until after the holidays, reaching 100 percent around March, he said.

"(Sun Tech) kind of tested the waters over the last season, but didn't fully embrace it until they started out this September," Locke said. "They were a little bit caught in the middle, still trying to hold on a little to what they were doing in the past, but have come to the conclusion that that particular customer is just not there and they needed to broaden their appeal."

by Edward Gately The Arizona Republic Oct. 31, 2011 12:00 AM

Fountain Hills CopperWynd resort reopens

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