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Hilton Ponce & Casinos $120 million expansion nearly complete
New 27-hole Costa Caribe Golf & Country Club, 100-room Executive Tower, and 104 luxury residential villas to transform hotel into a world-class resort
By JOSE L. CARMONA
February 17, 2005
Hilton Ponce & Casino welcomed 2005 with the completion of the 27-hole championship golf course and the 100-room Executive Tower, part of the $120 million investment by the hotels owner company, Serrallés Hotel Inc., on the 550-acre Costa Caribe residential and tourism resort project in Ponce.
The Costa Caribe Resort project began when Serrallés Hotel Inc. acquired the Hilton Ponce & Casino in December 2000. So far, $152 million has been invested in the project, including acquisition of the hotel, which opened in 1992.
The project also includes a 32,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art clubhouse, sprawling gardens, swimming pool, private beach, tennis court, 104 residential villas, and a $5.6 million, 722-foot private bridge spanning the Portugués and Bucana rivers, which connect the golf club to the hotel.
Completion of the second phase of the residential villas is slated for this summer.
The Costa Caribe Golf and Country Club, a 27-hole Par-72 PGA championship facility, was designed by Bruce A. Besse Jr., an experienced golf-course architect and president of Willowbend Golf and Land design. Willowbend Development LLC designed, built, and manages the new golf-and-country club.
Adjacent to the hotel, Costa Caribe Golf & Country Club features Puerto Ricos first island green, the 12th hole, which is situated on a peninsula.
"The golf course is the only one in Puerto Rico to exclusively use Sea Dwarf Pas Palum grass," Serrallés Hotel Inc. President Alberto Torruella told CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. "It also boasts two holes on the Caribbean Sea, 17 man-made lakes, a variety of bird species, and breathtaking views of the Caribbean Sea and Puerto Ricos central mountain region."
The three-story, $10 million clubhouse features private launches, saunas, and a massage room. It is located beside the golf course and faces the Caribbean Sea and the resorts swimming pool. The first story houses a pro-shop and a 50-seat cocktail lounge called Sanchos. Golfers can recharge their golf carts in the basement parking lot.
Acqua Pazza, an authentic Italian cuisine restaurant with seating for 130 guests, occupies the clubhouses second floor.
The new five-story, $20 million Executive Tower hotel annex opened last summer and features 100 ocean-view rooms, bringing the total number of available guestrooms at the hotel to 253. The new rooms are an upgrade from the average hotel rooms.
"Guests staying in the Executive Tower enjoy exclusive privileges of the Executive Lounge, such as private check-in and check-out, complimentary continental breakfast, concierge services, afternoon cocktails, evening hors doeuvres and computers with high-speed Internet access," said Hilton Ponce & Casino General Manager Gunther Mainka. "With the additional rooms, we will go heavily into the group and convention business since we have large banquet and exhibition facilities."
The hotel has 23,913 square feet of meeting and exhibit space plus a 2,985 square-foot-business-center facility.
Prior to the addition of Costa Caribe Resort and the extra guestrooms, the hotel mainly catered to business travelers visiting the islands southern region but the new additions make the Hilton Ponce & Casino a viable alternative for business or leisure travelers, and convention goers visiting San Juan who want to experience a different part of the island or simply enjoy a round of golf.
"The additional hotel rooms, combined with the new golf course and villas, will transform the Hilton Ponce & Casino into a world-class facility and place it among the top, full-service resort hotels on the island," said Hilton Las Américas Area President Howard Friedman, who toured the facility along with Hilton Caribbean Vice President of Operations Danny Hughes.
Hughes said he wasnt concerned about competition coming from the new convention center in Isla Grande opening later this year, or from the two other existing golf courses in the southern region, namely El Legado in Humacao and Coamo Springs in Coamo.
"We see great opportunities for the southern region as the opening of the convention center and the development of the Port of the Americas will help the Hilton Ponce and Costa Caribe attract the overflow convention business from San Juan as well as those travelers who want to combine business with pleasure away from the San Juan area," said Hughes. "Theres room for everyone."
Special packages could be offered, whereby Caribe Hilton guests in San Juan could also stay at the Hilton Ponce to play golf and visit other regional attractions, Friedman added.
Improved ground transportation services between San Juan and Ponce, as well as attracting a major airline that can service the route, will be key to further improving the business climate in Ponce and the southern region, which lack airline service, Serrallés Hotel Inc. President Alberto Torruella pointed out.
This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.