Under the Big Top

By | May 10th, 2018

Horseshoe Bay (Texas) Resort

Tents and pavilions house opportunities for clubs and resorts to expand their amenities and business profiles.

By offering outdoor facilities that can be customized for social events and corporate meetings as needed, more properties are reaping the benefits of extending their clubhouse facilities through flexible tents or pavilions.

However, pitching a tent, versus constructing a pavilion, is a big decision for any club or resort. Not only do labor and installation costs factor into the equation, but determining if and how a structure will prove its usefulness can weigh heavily on management’s minds. Here are some managers’ descriptions of why they opted for a particular type of structure—and of how that choice has ultimately transformed what their properties have to offer.


• Expanded pavilions offer a permanent space for large corporate functions and catered affairs.
• Open-ended interior selections allow events to be customized as needed.
• Glass or see-through walls take advantage of outdoor views from a protected vantage point.

Permanent and Purposeful
When a seasonal tent at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa outgrew its usefulness, management at the San Antonio, Texas, facility knew that an upgrade was imminent. What had begun as a temporary solution for a scheduled event in 2010 warranted a series of changes that eventually resulted in a full-service pavilion.

“During the time the tent was on the property, it became hugely popular and we realized that having a permanent tent could be a wonderful way to diversify and expand our meeting space to attract more business,” explains Natalia Malek, Development Manager of Woodbine Development Corp., which manages the resort.

In 2012, Woodbine began working with the city to update the space into a permanent pavilion; a sprinkler system was added the following year. (Otherwise known as the RW Pavilion, the structure was named for the Rogers-Wiseman family that owned and worked the Texas ranch property on which the resort was built.)

By 2014, the pavilion became an official fixture among the resort’s available event-space offerings. This past January, new enhancements were unveiled that were designed to improve its overall aesthetics.

Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa, San Antonio, Texas

“The pavilion was primarily used as a weather backup for meetings and events utilizing our unique outdoor spaces,” explains Erin Medina, the Hyatt Regency Hill Country’s Director of Events. “We made the decision to update the RW Pavilion to provide an alternative option that would lend itself to accommodating more social events.”

Floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides now help open up the space by adding more natural light, while luxury vinyl-tile flooring was added to mimic the overall style of the resort, which Medina describes as “Hill Country charm.”

With 8,800 sq. ft. of open space, the pavilion offers a flexible layout designed to accommodate anywhere between 100 to 500 guests. Its use varies from meetings for international clients to social events such as weddings and holiday parties. “[The pavilion] provides our clients with the option to hold an event safe from the weather and outdoor elements, but with a more open and natural feel than a typical ballroom would offer,” says Medina.

While the resort did not face any major obstacles during original construction or the recent updates, some factors came into play that had not been previously considered.

“The window panels were a great aesthetic improvement, but they increased the direct sunlight that comes into the tent and therefore the heat factor,” says Malek, noting that tinting was then applied to the panels. “We’re also considering the installation of roller shades to block out some light and better accommodate A/V needs.”

For future pavilion projects, the resort would likely hire an independent flooring contractor—selecting the best flooring poses its own set of challenges, due to the hot and humid Texas climate, Medina says.

Getting a Grip On Tent Safety

For clubs considering tent installations, the potential for injuries due to poorly secured tents can be cause for concern. To help get a better grasp of proper tent installation and usage, consider these tips from safety expert Brian Avery with Event Safety Services:
• Consult the tent manufacturer-supplied materials. “Structures over 2,000 sq. ft., depending on fire marshal office and jurisdiction, require ingress/egress per fire codes, compliance with NFPA Life Safety 101 and 102, or International Fire Codes,” says Avery.
• Know your installers. “Installation crews should be trained in proper installation, permitting requirements and inspections,” he says. “Once installed, continued inspections [of the tent] must take place to determine movement, settling of the surface, etc.”
• Double-check compliance. “If improperly installed, the [tent’s] wind ratings don’t matter; the tent will fail at a much lower rate of speed,” Avery says.
• Have a plan of action in case of a weather emergency. “Make sure during the event that the weather is being monitored and an evacuation plan is in place to a building/structure,” says Avery.

Overall, however, the upgraded pavilion’s design has been well-received by resort guests. “Our local, social-event customers really love it for the elegant, yet country-chic touches,” says Medina.

Honing Hospitality
For the Horseshoe Bay (Texas) Resort, adding a 9,600-sq. ft. pavilion to the property last June has helped to broaden its customer base. “This permanent structure allows us to take on larger group profiles,” says Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Bryan Woodward. “It complements our existing ballroom and other meeting venues, and is a nice way to attract bigger parties.”

When debating the choice of investing in a tent or a pavilion, Woodward points to the financial aspect. “Tents can be expensive, from the labor and set-up to the take-down,” he notes. “From a banquet standpoint, this didn’t make much sense [for us].”

Now, with a pavilion in place, larger-group footprints can be accommodated, making it easier for Horseshoe Bay to manage both social events and corporate functions.

“We can handle a nice mix of catered events; weddings and after-parties love the space, and on the corporate side, we can handle multi-day programs,” explains Woodward. “With sessions already taking place in the ballroom and breakout rooms, the pavilion nicely complements what we already offer.”

To create an atmosphere conducive to both business and pleasure, the resort opted for synthetic grass flooring that is easily cleaned and can be dressed up with high-end furniture and lighting as needed. Clear vinyl walls provide direct exposure to natural light that is further enhanced by a central chandelier and uplighting. Heating and cooling facilities are located on the back side of the pavilion, so clients only see vents.

The back end of the structure also includes a covered storage unit, designed to service back-of-house operations. To ensure that this site is not affected by heavy rains, the pavilion was outfitted with a special foundation and proper drainage. Landscaping surrounding this part of the property, which includes an event lawn and pool, features palm trees with twinkling lights. “It makes for a nice evening-function space,” notes Woodward.

For other facilities that are considering adding a pavilion to their event space, Woodward offers some practical advice. “Before building, decide what type of business is going to come through that location. Make sure the in-and-out aesthetics match,” he suggests. “In the hospitality industry, we are here to service the client, and [with our pavilion] that’s exactly what we did.”

Indian Wells (Calif.) Golf Resort

An Operational Oasis
At Indian Wells (Calif.) Golf Resort, enhancing an existing pavilion event space with an 800-sq. ft. suite and updated and expanded patio and vestibule has provided even more luxury for an already-polished facility.

“We saw a great opportunity to build a ‘ready room’ for bridal parties to get made up and have a grand entrance,” explains General Manager Steven Rosen.

The construction project, which was completed in September 2017, also addressed an issue related to the resort’s desert location. Moving guests from comfortable air conditioning into the hot sun, where temperatures can rise to 100 degrees during the summer, was not conducive to a relaxing experience.

“By designing a vestibule, we have an air exchange where the loss of hot and cold air is minimized,” notes Rosen. “It is better designed for efficiency and comfort.”

While bridal parties can benefit from this calm and cool setting, corporate executives and resort guests also take advantage of this functional space. “The suite is truly multipurpose,” says Rosen. “It doubles as a green room for presenters at executive meetings, and during golf tournaments, the back room can be used for scoring when concentration is necessary.”

Horseshoe Bay (Texas) Resort

Deciding between an extension to the pavilion and a temporary tent was practically a no-brainer at Indian Wells. “Four years ago, when management decided to capture additional revenue streams through catering, we knew that simply pitching a tent would not accomplish that,” says Rosen. “We have some cooler nights in December and did not want the elements to dictate or narrow down our ability to use a tent. We wanted something that would fit in harmony with what we are—not in contrast.”

Looking out over the mountain views, the pavilion features three glass sides and a solid fourth wall. Flooring is made from a commercial epoxy resin, selected for its imperviousness to wear and tear, while the rest of the décor is described as a blank canvas.

“We deliberately left the design open-ended, so it could work for meetings or weddings,” notes Rosen.

All lighting is LED, and color can be mixed as needed to create a ceiling light in a particular hue. Heating and cooling is cleverly concealed via a specially designed soffit built around the perimeter of the ceiling.

During construction, Indian Wells remained open, which posed a unique set of tests for its staff. “We had a weight capacity for trucks driving over the bridge from the clubhouse to the pavilion, and concrete had to be pumped from underneath,” recalls Rosen. “We had to make sure that the impact for our guests was minimized, in terms of noise and dirt.”

But even with these challenges, the end results have proved to be worthwhile. With four hotels sitting adjacent to the resort’s campus, wedding parties and executives alike can benefit from the venue’s convenient and comfortable location.

“I think we’ve hit a home run,” enthuses Rosen. “No space in the valley comes close to this pavilion; [it’s] a unique venue for someone who wants to take advantage of our desert.”

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