See the Tulalips’ luxe new hotel

TULALIP — A nondescript trailer outside the Tulalip Resort Casino holds some intriguing contents: A foot-for-foot replica of a luxury hotel room.

Walking through the trailer’s door, a visitor ends up in an area mimicking a hotel hallway. Mirrors to the left and right give the illusion that the hall stretches for hundreds of feet.

The mirrors serve a practical purpose for the casino’s developers, however. They simulate the spacing between lighting fixtures, and provide a better look at the carpet’s repeating pattern.

The actual 12-story hotel, being built alongside the casino, is scheduled to open in June. Along with giving potential guests a room to tour during construction of the hotel’s 370 real-world rooms, the mock-up exposes potential problems in design. The room cost $200,000 to build, but tribal officials said it’s actually saved them money.

The mock-up process holds considerable weight with some developers. For instance, in Seattle’s Hotel 1000, a mock-up room was used during construction and inspired about 180 changes to the luxury hotel.

“It helps to create the real-world experience that the end user, in our case the guest, the hotel guest, will actually have,” said Hotel 1000 general manager Brian Flaherty. “It helps us to make better informed decisions.”

The room near the new hotel in Quil Ceda Village has helped developers save about $1.5 million on the $130 million hotel, said Brett Magnan, Tulalip’s executive vice president of hotel operations. Not all of the changes save cash, however. Some simply help the luxury hotel improve its amenities as it aims for a four-star rating.

Magnan estimated about 50 percent of hotel developers use a mock-up when planning properties. While some regard the practice as an unnecessary expense, Magnan called that shortsighted.

“You save vastly more dollars on the project because you’ve made the mistake once, and you’ve fixed the problem once,” Magnan said, “and you’re not repeating it 370 times.”

The Tulalip mock-up helped trigger about 65 changes, including:

The removal of a closet, saving $700,000. The original design called for an entryway with two mid-sized closets, one for items such as a safe and an ironing board, the other for clothing. A simplified design has a larger closet that can hold both.

Some alterations of the furniture. For instance, the room’s $150 stool was about two inches higher than the room’s $400 chairs, a potentially uncomfortable pairing the room helped expose.

A tweak to the electrical outlets near the room’s desk. Before, the outlets were exposed, sitting above the desk surface. In the finished hotel, they will hide behind the desk, giving the wall a cleaner look.

Moving a light fixture in the bathroom to better illuminate the glass-doored shower, and switching the shower’s grout to a darker color that will hide stains.

Magnan said the hotel might approach a five-star rating, but he didn’t expect it to quite reach that level. “I don’t believe we’ll ever receive five stars or five diamonds,” Magnan said. “We are striving for a four-star, four-diamond … property.”

Travel groups such as AAA assign hotel ratings by reviewing the quality accommodations after a hotel opens. Five stars or diamonds is the highest rating, with four-star facilities also touting themselves as luxury stops.

With the mock-up room in place, and the hotel developers soliciting opinions from builders, possible guests and travel organizations, Magnan is optimistic the $200,000 expense will help the hotel reach a solid rating.

“Absolutely,” he said.

Reporter Andy Rathbun: 425-339-3455 or e-mail

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