As the new kid on downtown Reno’s block, the Whitney Peak Hotel is known for spearheading a more urban and edgy take on lodging.
Two years after the property opened its doors, however, Whitney Peak is trying something more traditional — a new banquet and events space.
For a place often tied to hip offerings such as the world’s tallest artificial climbing wall and Cargo Concert Hall, the idea of a new banquet space might seem, well, ordinary. With a couple of years under their belts, however, the need for such space was quite evident, said Niki Gross, Whitney Peak’s managing director.
Despite Cargo’s popularity, for example, the hotel has been moving away from using it as a general event location for its clients.
“Cargo was designed as a concert hall so it’s not really ideal for meetings,” Gross said. “Now we have something more traditional when it comes to what people expect for those types of functions.”
Just because the new events space is more traditional, however, doesn’t mean it has to be generic, according to Gross. A lot of traditional venues are designed to be patently inoffensive and for good reason. When you’re aiming for a wide and general clientele, an innocuous approach is exactly what you want to take.
“(Hotels generally use) a very conservative approach that’s designed to not be memorable,” Gross said. “It’s an all things for all people approach.”
For its new events space, Whitney Peak decided to add its own flavor to the mix. While it can feature more traditional table arrangements, for example, its walls feature an exposed brick pattern and rock and roll-themed paintings that serve as nods to the hip, urban “ultra-luxe” vibe seen in some hotels in places like New York or San Francisco. I high-tech lighting system also allows the ability to control the entire space or individual rooms via touchscreen keypads.
It’s the kind of approach that Whitney Peak can freely take as a new, smaller independent brand compared to larger hotel chains, according to Gross. It’s also a necessary one to distinguish it from the rest of the market.
Gross pointed to the Nevada Museum of Art as a source of inspiration when designing the new space. At first, Whitney Peak considered leasing some of its vacant areas inside the hotel for extra income and using some of its properties around the building for convention and event space instead. The museum, however, showed that there is a market for alternatives and Whitney Peak decided to create its own banquet and event space inside the property.
“The museum downtown has this beautiful space and they’re seeing constant demand,” Gross said. “We thought, if they can get constant demand with their pricing, then there must be a market for it, and we’ve found that to be true (with our own space).”
Whitney Peak’s space is designed to fall somewhere between the more high-end pricing of the museum and the more affordable rates seen in downtown’s traditional hotels.
Competing against the hotel-casinos in value can be tough because they can give out better deals and concessions due to the ancillary revenue that they generate, Gross said. Instead, Whitney Peak is aiming for a different audience, one that’s perhaps not as attracted by gaming and prefer a less traditional space with more urban touches.
It’s an approach that works, especially for a younger clientele, said Mike Kazmierski, president and CEO of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada. While many of the companies and businesses that EDAWN deals with are more comfortable with a traditional hotel experience, there’s a portion of the entrepreneur class that also prefers Whitney Peak’s approach.
“What Whitney Peak does appeals to millennials and the creative class,” Kazmierski said. “This gives our community more options, which is important to attract the full spectrum of people we need to attract.”
Eventually, Whitney Peak wants to make inroads with the corporate market, especially if Reno continues to attract new companies from places such as the Bay Area. For now, the majority of the new space’s usage is coming from a familiar source.
“Weddings, weddings, weddings,” Gross said. “We’ve got weddings for every weekend in October, and that’s just for this year.”