NAPA — Throughout a still-teetering economy that saw tourism business plummet across the country, The Meritage Resort and Spa’s planned expansion was the first major construction project to take hold following much angst in the hospitality sector.
When the recession took full effect in 2008, construction on the $40 million expansion was halted and the expansion was put on hold while the parent company, Irvine-based Pacific Hospitality Group, rode out the storm. About two years later, construction resumed and, nearly five years after initial plans, the resort celebrated the grand opening in May 2012 of what is now perhaps the largest hotel and conference center in the North Bay.
“We took a leap of faith and a little bit of risk in opening this, but I think it opened at the right time,” Michael Palmer, general manager, said. “For all practical purposes, our revenues have increased exponentially.”
And with that increase in resort revenue comes an increase in how much it contributes to transient occupancy taxes and a tourism improvement district, which benefit tourism efforts throughout the entire county, Mr. Palmer added.
The project was ambitious from the start. The number of rooms nearly doubled, from 165 to 319, with a new three-story lodging building. The meeting space expanded to 50,000 square feet, including a 7,300-square-foot Carneros Ballroom that is divisible into 10 “salons.” That’s in addition to the 10,500-square-foot Meritage Ballroom in the existing hotel.
Other amenities include the Crush Ultra Lounge, which features six bowling lanes, a 600-square-foot fitness room, Blend cafe and bistro and outdoor meeting areas, a croquet lawn and numerous other upgrades that made the property more luxurious.
And other efforts will continue in 2013 — all rooms in the existing hotel will be upgraded to match the new rooms, Mr. Palmer said, adding that its group business has been a solid driver of its revenue growth.
“We’re looking at a very healthy 2013,” he said, anticipating that the resort will book more than 40,000 group rooms next year after doing 30,000 in time since the expansion opened less than a year ago.
Attractions at the resort predating expansion have been the Siena fine dining restaurant, Spa Terra and Trinitas Cellars tasting room in a 22,000-square-foot cave bored under the landmark Grapecrusher statue overlooking the area.
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