AURORA | The gigantic Gaylord Rockies hotel and conference center that’s been open for just more than a year is already planning to expand by 317 rooms.

The addition would bring the room count to 1,818 at the 85-acre convention center in eastern Aurora, where business leaders say the hotel has been outperforming their initial estimates.

“The initial performance at Gaylord Rockies has exceeded our expectations for a property in its first year of operations, and feedback from both group and leisure customers has been tremendous,” Colin Reed, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Ryman Hospitality Properties, said in a statement. “These early results, combined with the demand we are experiencing as large group supply remains constrained nationwide, reinforce our belief that this is the right time to increase the capacity of this hotel.”

Prior to even opening, Gaylord Rockies said it had booked more than 1 million nights at the hotel, some through 2028. Officials said in 2017 that the majority of guests set to visit the Gaylord were new visitors to Colorado. 

For years leaders have seen the area around the Gaylord as the future of Aurora. 

“The Gaylord is the catalyst in my opinion,” former Aurora Mayor Bob LeGare, who was lobbying for $30 million in tax incentives, prior to returning to city council, told the Sentinel before he left the dais in December.

Rida Development Corp., the lead developer behind Gaylord, purchased 130 acres near Gaylord for $9.23 million in late 2016. Economic development officials said then the plan for the land would be to add additional hotels, retail businesses and restaurants. 

Wendy Mitchell, CEO of the Aurora Economic Development Corporation, said the expansion ratifies the vision LeGare and may saw for the region decades ago. 

“The quick timing of an expansion further proves that this has come to fruition and means even more positive impact for the region as we see significant development being catalyzed in the surrounding area,” she said in a statement. “We appreciate the continued leadership and forward-thinking approach of all the stakeholders involved and look forward to the Gaylord Rockies delivering even more value to our community.”

Expansion construction is set to begin later this year and finish in 2022.

— KARA MASON, Staff Writer