Isleta Resort Hotel

Story by Bruce Higgins | September 28, 2010

This exterior view of the Atrium north side shows the feather pattern.

The Pueblo of Isleta, located 13 miles south of Albuquerque, is expanding the casino it has operated for more than a decade into the category of a destination resort. The resort concept is intended to attract conventions and large groups by providing a wide variety of choices in lodgings, dining and entertainment.

Isleta selected a joint venture of Hunt Construction Group of Phoenix and the Albuquerque firm Bradbury Stamm to build the resort in 2006. The contract to build the 305,000-square-foot hotel facility, designed by Cuningham Group Architects of Minneapolis, brings together the contractor team that recently completed the Rio Rancho Event Events Center. Contract amounts are confidential. The Project Management firm is 3D/I, now part of Parsons.

Guests arriving at the hotel will drive under a high portico. This portico has four GLULAM beams that are each 140 feet long, some of the longest ever used in construction in New Mexico. As they enter the lobby, guests will be greeted by GFRC walls in sweeping, ornate designs. Subcontractor Les File Drywall, a local firm, installed these walls.

The hotel tower rises six floors, offering "junior suites" on the fifth and sixth floors. The "Governor's Suite" at the south end of the sixth floor offers the finest accommodations in the hotel. The hotel has a total of 201 guest rooms and suites.

The ground floor of the center offers visitors several restaurants, each providing distinctively different menus prepared in completely separate, state-of-the-art kitchens. The restaurants have unique décor to provide the customer not only a choice of menu but of atmosphere. The restaurants are the Asian venue "Craves," "505 Fusion" restaurant and bar, the 24-hour venue "Eagles Nest Cafe," and the Tiwa Steakhouse Dining. In addition, there is a bakery providing a wide variety of standard and specialty items.

This side view of the building shows the "pottery jar" spa structure at left. The spa structure is 36 feet high and 60 feet in diameter.

The hotel has an L-shaped footprint. A glass atrium rises seven stories at the northwest corner of the hotel. This provides a bright, warm public area. For those riding the glass elevators inside the atrium, there is an outstanding view of the Rio Grande valley and the volcanoes west of the river.

The atrium design was unique and difficult to construct. It has a structural steel frame and very special shaded glass panels, with a "low E" specification. The angular shades are designed to look like a feather, an important part of Pueblo of Isleta culture. From the exterior, the frame has cross braces that add a special look to the atrium structure.

Outside of the atrium is a structure of unusual design. It is the outdoor spa for hotel guests. The architectural design is symbolic of a pottery jar, so characteristic of the native pueblo culture. The spa structure is 36 feet high and 60 feet in diameter. For the guests, the inside of the spa is well sheltered from sun and weather and affords a measure of privacy.

In addition to the spa, the ground floor has indoor/outdoor pool facilities accessible from inside the hotel. The hotel hallways are very ornate in the flooring designs, with a mix of stone flooring and carpeting. Each floor has a "hospitality" area with the most unusual and beautiful wall finishes and décor.

The spacious convention meeting rooms and ballrooms are designed with curved false ceilings and unique carpets. These facilities have built-in partitions to reduce or enlarge the rooms to match the needs of the convention or group utilizing them.

The ground floor of the resort also includes an artistically designed circular "Seminar Meeting" room. It has a unique design intended to make smaller groups seem drawn together. It could be considered to resemble a pueblo Kiva.

Also on the ground floor is The Kids' Connection child day care center. This is a spacious facility with the state-of-the-art equipment for security and for the entertainment of the children entrusted to the care of the resort staff.

A Tight Schedule

The original schedule for the project was specified for 18 months from award to completion; however, final construction drawings were not issued until February 21, 2007. Even with that schedule, some color and finish decisions were not made until the following September.

That gave a short seven months to procure very special tile, carpeting, stonework, and wall covering products from Italy, Turkey and other places all over the world. An example of this is that within the Tiwa Steakhouse, the design called for a stone wall with one of the pieces weighing approximately 900 pounds. With that heavy weight, special engineering was required in the wall design.

The Pueblo of Isleta, as owner, had numerous separate specialty contractors and suppliers whose products and/or services would have to be coordinated into the already tight and complicated schedule. This added a degree of complexity to the construction project. The owner's schedule requiring a July 1, 2008, grand opening remained the goal.

The hotel structural frame is a post-tensioned concrete design. The exterior is metal stud framing. The hotel structure has a "Mezzanine" that houses most of the mechanical equipment for the operation of the building. In spite of all of this equipment housed, the roof still has much mechanical equipment in place. The concrete used in construction totaled approximately 12,000 cubic yards. A total of 538 tons of steel were used in the hotel and atrium structures.

The construction of the spa described above required 18 double curved glue-laminated wood arches equally spaced around the perimeter. The arches are 6-3/4 inches wide and 15 inches deep and are exposed to both the interior and the exterior. The Glulam arches are made of Alaska yellow cedar, offering greater resistance to decay than other woods, while providing a more attractive appearance than the common pressure-treated woods.

Timberweld Manufacturing supplied the Glulam arches, which are held in place by five rows of 6-inch-diameter structural steel rings. The Glulam products were delivered on site with final finish, ready to install. This was not the case with ordinary framing materials that required finish coatings or other surfacing. The exterior finish of the spa is stucco over plywood.

Completed On Time

Key employees for the Hunt/Bradbury Stamm team were Scott Owens, Mike Shelstad, Mike Liguori, Scott Milton, Ed Fortenbury, Bill South, George Eggleston, Brian Lawrenson, Stan Horton, Linda Serna, Kevin Vennier, Craig Hanson, Chuck Staley, Stephanie South, Cliff Toliver, and Tim Dingman.

Major subcontractors and suppliers included the following: Chaparral Electric, SAFE, MBI, ISEC, Shasta Pools, American National Insulation, Business Environments, West Coast Marble and Tile, Scott's Fencing, National Roofing, G&H Construction, Norcon, Star Paving, Overhead Door, Condeck, Lente's Painting, Schuff Steel, American Terrazzo, AMEC, Arizona Restaurant and Supply, Beaty Construction, Colorado Hardscapes, Computer Assets, Heads Up Landscape, Les File Drywall, Moninger Steel, Noel Company, Otis Elevator, Romero Excavating, Trane, and Southwest Glass and Glazing. These do not include the direct suppliers and contractors of Pueblo of Isleta.

The Project Team used Phoenix Scheduling Software and the scheduling consulting firm of Paulsen Construction Management in the planning and execution of the project.

Engineering services for the project were provided by Van Sickle Allen and Associates (structural and civil), Xnth Inc. (electrical), Robert Rippe & Associates (kitchen design), and Wet Design (pools).

The complexity of the project, the significant number of subcontractors/suppliers, and the tight construction schedule made this a very challenging contract. The project was successfully opened on schedule July 1, 2008.