'Soul' comes to downtown Salt Lake's newest hotel after decades of planning

Guests attend a reception following the ribbon-cutting at the newly opened Hyatt Regency hotel in Salt Lake City on Wednesday afternoon.

Guests attend a reception following the ribbon-cutting at the newly opened Hyatt Regency hotel in Salt Lake City on Wednesday afternoon. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)


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SALT LAKE CITY — Planning for the new Hyatt Regency in downtown Salt Lake City officially dates back to 2005; however, the desire for the building goes way further than that.

Darrin Casper, Salt Lake County's deputy mayor for finance and administration, recalls some of the research coming to the county as he helped staff the Visit Salt Lake executive board in the early 1990s. The county monitored the reasons why major conventions and other attractions chose other cities over Salt Lake City or Salt Lake County, and one particular reason seemed to stand out.

"Usually the number one or two reason was the lack of a headquarter hotel," he said. "So we've been able to compile lost business over those years due to specifically that."

It led to a project essentially three decades in the making — which is now a reality.

While the 700-room Hyatt Regency hotel officially opened for business on Oct. 17, business leaders and local government officials packed inside its glamorous lobby Wednesday afternoon to officially celebrate the opening of the building after years of planning. It's the first Hyatt Regency hotel in Utah.

The celebration marks the pivotal moment when the building becomes a functional piece of the city, said Pete Sears, the Americas group president of Hyatt Hotels Corporation. Though it's connected to the Salt Palace Convention Center and was constructed with the mindset of attracting large-scale meetings, conventions and special events, he hopes it's also a place that attracts Salt Lake residents for smaller gatherings and family occasions, as well.

"The owners, the contractors (and) the county have given us a beautiful hotel. Now comes the fun and critically important work, which is bringing a soul into this building," he said. "The level and attention to detail and the culture of service ... set in the weeks to come will endure here for years and years to come."

Giving a building 'soul'

The event also celebrates the end of construction, which began back in January 2020 as a $377 million venture. Despite having to navigate through COVID-19 shutdowns, staff and material shortages, and inflation, the project ended exactly when it was initially scheduled.

Officials cut the ribbon at the newly opened Hyatt Regency hotel in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022.
Officials cut the ribbon at the newly opened Hyatt Regency hotel in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. (Photo: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

The hotel staff also got to work right away, hosting its first group two days after opening, said Pina Purpero, the hotel's general manager.

"There was no soft opening. We went full force from day one," she said. "All of our restaurants, all of our amenities were open from the beginning. We've already had a few groups that have stayed with us and experienced the hotel, so we're off and running for sure."

A fire burns in a sitting area fireplace near the check-in desks at the newly opened Hyatt Regency hotel in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022.
A fire burns in a sitting area fireplace near the check-in desks at the newly opened Hyatt Regency hotel in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. (Photo: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

Part of her task isn't just handling the crowds but creating the "soul" that Sears mentioned. The building, she said, tries to reflect a lot of what the city and state have to offer. Every room, for instance, features large floor-to-ceiling windows to give guests a view of the mountains.

Hotel officials previously described their plan to decorate the lobby with earth-tone colors, "snow-inspired" chandeliers and honeycomb-shaped veneers, mirroring the state's natural features and symbols.

Reservations can be made through the hotel's website.

Planning pays off

All of the planning and work are already starting to pay off. Casper said that Visit Salt Lake, a nonprofit organization that promotes Salt Lake County tourism, started pitching the hotel to groups and conventions as soon as the project received a green light for construction.

This helped Salt Lake City win back Outdoor Retailer, a large outdoor products trade convention that returns to Utah in January after moving to Denver after the 2017 show, and grab the 2023 NBA All-Star Game.

That's just the beginning. Visit Salt Lake officials announced last month that they booked nearly 50 meetings, athletic events and conventions during the third quarter of the year, which are expected to bring in almost 150,000 attendees who will use more than 247,000 hotel room nights and spend an estimated $145 million in the local economy.

It's exactly what county officials envisioned decades ago.

"It's already having an impact on our economy," Casper said. "Right now, we're expecting a thriving business."

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Carter Williams is a reporter who covers general news, local government, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com.

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