Starr Pass Resort pitched as a desert retreat

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- The JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa will debut in December as the first new resort in this city in 18 years.

The master-planned community of Starr Pass in Tucsons western mountains always had a high-end resort as part of its plan, but developer Chris Ansley wanted the resort built in an ecologically sensitive manner. 

He said that he had seen too many resorts become overdeveloped, scraping the Sonoran Desert of its native flora, often destroying the ecosystem that attracted guests to the area in the first place.

Ansleys plan was to expand the Tucson Mountain Park into an adjoining 150-acre parcel in the high Sonoran Desert and build the resort on the same parcel, where nothing else ever could be built or developed.

Within the past year, the plan became reality: Starr Pass Resort & Spa is slated to open on Dec. 15.  The resort will be in the Tucson Mountains, amid saguaro forests and aromatic mesquite bosques.

Ansley said the resort construction has not disturbed the desert ecosystem. The flora and rock removed were transferred to other areas of the property. In addition, indigenous elements were used as construction material: adobe stucco, multicolored desert stone, Spanish tile, spines from ocotillo and saguaro cacti.

Saguaros grow just outside the hotels entrance, said Mike Kass, sales and marketing director for the resort. In addition, once inside the hotel lobby, through our three-story-high window-walls, the guests will see unimpeded views of the Tucson valley and the Rincon Mountains. Once our guests walk outside, they will be surrounded by high desert solitude -- no tour buses, no noisy construction in the hills above or below us, just peace.

The $185 million resort will have 575 rooms, 35 suites and two Presidential suites.

Our conference facilities will make us the largest and most technologically advanced in the city, said Kass. We have already been successful at bringing convention business to Tucson that has always gone elsewhere. Right now, we have over 100 conferences slated for 2005. That alone should bring about $197 million to town. The coordinators, planners and participants will have 88,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meetings space, the citys largest ballroom at 20,000 square feet and a second one at 15,000 square feet.

The 22-foot ceilings and wireless access throughout meetings areas will attract event planners, he added.

When completed in December, it will be southern Arizonas largest resort, with a full-service spa with 23 treatment rooms, seven dining options and a 27-hole Arnold Palmer signature golf facility at the Starr Pass Golf Club, Kass said.

Starr Pass Resort & Spa will be about 10-minute drive west of downtown and about a 20-minute drive from Tucson Airport.

Room rates will run from $149 to $399. The resort will pay 10% commission to agents. For further information, call (520) 792-3500, fax (520) 792-3351 or visit www.starrpassmarriott.com.

To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to [email protected].

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