What do you do when the biggest hotel in town completes a $52 million renovation during the town's 50th anniversary year?
If the hotel is the Sheraton Bal Harbour, and the town is the little Florida Gold Coast enclave of Bal Harbour, you throw a party, of course. And what a party: rock'n'roll stars, a Gianni Versace fashion show, fireworks, skydivers, cigar-rolling demonstrations, champagne tasting, magicians, and mermaids-with all proceeds to support the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, a leader in spinal injury research.
The most immediately obvious change to the property is the beachfront area. The huge swimming pool and sunbathing areas have undergone a $12 million transformation into a water theme park, complete with water slide, flume, and waterfall. The new pool snakes like a river around gazebos and under pedestrian bridges, creating a series of separate areas for outdoor functions. The design permits three or four small groups to hold cocktail receptions or dinners in the same area without feeling as though they are on top of each other.
All 655 rooms and 53 suites have been renovated, as have the hotel's five restaurants and lounges. The Bal Harbour Beach House, a 250-seat oceanfront bar and restaurant, and al Carbon, an upscale South American/Mediterranean theme restaurant with an Argentine chef, are new.
The hotel's 73,000 square feet of meeting space have also undergone renovation, including the 17,000-square-foot Grand Ballroom and the 20,000-square-foot Nautilus exhibit hall. A junior ballroom, ten meeting rooms and an executive center with four rooms for board meetings comprise the rest of the breakout space.
With the renovations have come new policies for booking meetings. In years gone by, Sheraton would allow groups to book the entire hotel. Now, the hotel plans to limit group sizes to 300 during peak season (roughly January through April) and to 450 during low season.