Harrah’s Rincon Casino & Resort, located about an hour northeast of San Diego, will soon play a much larger role in the meetings arena when it wraps up a $160 million expansion project. The second phase of the project will wind down in December; a 23,000-sf multipurpose convention and entertainment center as well as Corked, a wine and craft beer bar under its belt. The project will reach full completion in April 2014 when Harrah’s Rincon Casino & Resort debuts a 403-room hotel tower. Prevue spoke with Shannon Upson, the resort’s director of hospitality services, about what meeting planners can expect when the project is finally completed.
Prevue: What makes this casino stand out compared to others in the area?
Shannon Upson: The service. As a property we are extremely focused on service across the brand. We take it so seriously that we measure it weekly by sending out surveys to customers. We have to show improvement every year. The upside to that is we meet those goals. Our product is extremely competitive—if not setting the standards. In fact, we see our competitors here often.
What is the goal behind the expansion in terms of attracting meeting planners to the property?
It’s a crucial component. We’re adding another 403 rooms. We recognize that the meetings and facilities space will become a much bigger player. With more availability, we can go aggressively after that space. The total indoor space will have more than 36,000 sf. We also have a lot of outdoor space such as the pool adjacent to the convention space for us to host concerts and receptions.
What is the most popular venue for meeting planners?
It depends on the group. We have an enormously large pool area. Behind the pool there’s a water wall feature that creates some interest. A group might have their event back there or we can set it up for lunch in between meeting indoors. We are building a similar space that will be real attractive to our customers and capitalizes on an indoor and outdoor experience. There will be fire pits that create a nice atmosphere for a cocktail reception.
How does the casino provide a destination experience?
Obviously we have a lot of guests that travel here now because of our name. We have a concierge that will accommodate people that want to go to the city or the San Diego Zoo. All of that is within an hour’s drive.
Are there any teambuilding activities for groups to participate in onsite?
We had two groups that each held a duck race in our lazy river. They put numbers on the ducks and whichever one crossed the finish line first won prizes. It was a team event and they were racing in a playful way. There’s also a beer and wine kitchen opening in December. It can be reserved for a sales group to do tastings of beer or wine. We have a host of microbrews from the area. It allows attendees to experience something special without having to travel to an actual winery or brewery. We can meet their needs here and have indoor and outdoor space that can accommodate several hundred people easily.