You may think Salt Lake City is a tough sell as an incentive destination—until you step into the 775-room Grand America. My own expectations upon visiting the property recently were modest. I knew the hotel had been built as the headquarters hotel for the 2002 Winter Olympics. I knew it had a ton of meeting space—74,000 square feet—plus a posh spa and a fabulous-looking outdoor pool. I didn’t expect to find one of the best U.S. incentive and convention properties in the country.
The hotel has been described as a "European boutique hotel built on American scale," and that seems fitting to me. The lobby, lined with stunning Italian marble and warmed by huge urns filled with flowers, opens into a spacious, sun-drenched parlor where a harpsichordist plays during afternoon tea. It’s a grand space, but not stuffy. The staff, who certainly must have had their mettle tested during the Olympics, make guests feel like visiting royalty.
Half the guest rooms are (oversized) suites, and there’s nothing standard about the 700-square-foot "standard" rooms. All rooms feature marble-and-brass bathrooms, custom-made French cherry-wood furniture, down pillows, Ralph Lauren–style drapery—I could go on and on.
The hotel’s visionary owner is Earl Holding, the Salt Lake City billionaire who also built out the Snow Basin ski resort in time for the Winter Olympics. Holding’s professed ambition was to build a hotel that would claim historic status even before it opened—thanks to meticulous planning and engineering and the use of the highest quality materials and craftsmanship.
The Grand America is indeed an aesthetic experience: from the handsome white Vermont granite exterior to the Murano glass chandeliers, the thick European wool carpets, yards of silk wall covering, and a Mediterranean-style formal garden.
The meeting space is in a separate wing of the ground floor that opens onto the outdoor garden, providing wonderful al fresco entertainment opportunities. There’s also meeting space on the third floor, with many rooms opening onto private outdoor terraces. I don’t have space here to detail, but I can say that it’s the most magnificent collection of ballrooms, boardrooms, breakout rooms, and exhibit hall space I’ve ever seen in one place. (And I’ve seen a lot of meeting space in 20 years in the field.) Of course, the place is fully rigged technologically.
For nearby attractions, some of the finest golf and skiing in the West are 30 minutes away in Park City. Here, too, is the Olympic National Park, where Flying Ace Productions can put on a customized show featuring acrobatic ski champions zipping down a chute and performing heart-stopping aerial acrobatics before landing in a large pool—a sound and light show that will dazzle your group, but probably not half as much as the Grand America.