The finishing touches: JW Marriott works to complete renovations for season
'We’re creating an environment where watching is as much fun as playing'
At a luxury-tier resort hotel, one expects certain amenities: first-class service, gourmet dining, posh facilities and elegantly appointed guest rooms. The list did not necessarily include zombie dodgeball – until now.
As Marco Island’s JW Marriott continues work on the years-long process of elevating the hotel to the top ranks of the nation’s and the world’s hotels, deadlines have slid from time to time, due to storms or, more often, to newly added items to enhance the property.
The hotel reopened as a JW Marriott on Jan. 1, 2017 and began once again hosting large corporate meetings this spring, but the new Lanai Tower on the south end of the property has continued to undergo extensive construction and finish work.
Amanda Cox, director of sales and marketing, and Nick Wagner, director of guest experiences – a new and noteworthy title – gave a tour of the new facilities to a reporter, a tour that had to be ended on time to allow them to give a similar tour to meeting planners who will likely bring hundreds of thousands of dollars of business to the property after it opens. Hard hats, safety vests, long pants and closed shoes were required, as hundreds of workers swarmed over the space that will become “10K Alley,” the hotel’s new game arcade. Every day, from 200 to 500 workers are toiling away to complete the space, said Cox.
In describing the facilities that as yet exist only in his mind’s eye, Wagner used the phrases “state-of-the-art” and “virtual reality” over and over. This is where the zombie dodgeball comes in. That is one of the intense, new “state-of-the-art” electronic games that guests will be able to play in booths, while their friends watch them in person and on oversized screens, perhaps while enjoying an adult beverage.
If zombie dodgeball becomes tiresome, with the flick of a controller, they can transition to virtual golf, playing courses from St. Andrews to Pebble Beach, or punt, pass and kick, among a host of other choices including Space Invaders and traditional Skee-Ball.
“You can definitely kill some dragons,” said Wagner. Another booth offers six holes of “black light miniature golf,” around the corner from six lanes of miniature bowling, similar to the classic duck pins.
“We’re creating an environment where watching is as much fun as playing,” said Cox. Patrons can watch the games while sitting in the “gastro-pub,” which apparently is a place one can have both food – “pub food with a twist” – and drink, including 60 craft beers on tap, 30 of them local, and special concoctions created specifically for the Marriott by distillers including Jack Daniels and Woodford Reserve.
All of this is accessed through an airlock, and transitions to “adult-exclusive” in the evening. The new tower also boasts an exclusive swimming pool on the fifth floor, with a sweeping view over the beach and the Gulf.
This area, and the adjoining breakout rooms for meetings and adults-only guest rooms, are almost the last area of the hotel to be completed. The project is scheduled to receive a certificate of occupancy from the City of Marco Island in the first week of September, with additional “punch out” to follow. The intent, said Cox, is to open one third of the rooms in September, another third in October, and have all the work done before the beginning of the traditional tourist season.
The hotel, she said, is busy right now, with more rooms sold for October than were occupied during Easter week at the end of March. Additional work is being done to facilitate access for business groups, who typically arrive in 49-passenger motor coaches, with an entry being expanded at the middle of the hotel, that will also be used for individual leisure guests going on excursions or leaving after their stay.
“Also, this will improve access for local residents to our fabulous retail stores,” said Cox. A crane outside the space is currently engaged in reroofing a portion of the building. “Once in a blue moon, we do something that’s not part of the new construction,” she said.