Peppermill joins ‘Big Guys’ with Tuscany Ballroom |

Peppermill joins ‘Big Guys’ with Tuscany Ballroom

Rob Sabo

Rick Chapman, executive director of sales at the Peppermill Hotel and Casino, will be a much busier man in coming months.

Chapman’s task: Secure convention clients for the Peppermill’s new 62,000-square-foot Tuscany Ballroom, an expanse of convention, entertainment and ballroom space that opens in November. Construction crews still are applying tape and mud to the huge coffered ceiling in the building’s lobby.

Soon they will depart, leaving Chapman with a huge empty space to fill.

Getting clients into the convention center comes down to three basic components, he says. First, the Peppermill now can be viewed as a convention hotel. Secondly, the ballroom can be used as an entertainment venue. Third, Chapman hopes the convention center becomes home to northern Nevada’s largest fund-raising events.

Chapman says he has a target list of roughly 5,000 associations and 20,000 corporations that could meet in Reno.

He wasted no time securing a top-tier convention client, signing Safari Club International through 2010. After 15 years at the Grand Sierra Resort, attendees at Reno’s largest convention will move their evening banquets to the Peppermill starting in 2008. Chapman says the Peppermill offers up to 3,000 banquet seats its new venue compared to the GSR’s maximum of 2,100 seats, one of the main reasons he convinced Safari Club executives to switch.

“Right off the bat you are $2 million ahead because of the size of the group,” says Chapman, who has worked Reno convention sales since 1978. Despite the Peppermill’s large hotel and convention expansions, Chapman says Safari Club is looking to leave Reno in 2011 for a city with a larger convention center.

“If we can’t expand the (Reno-Sparks) Convention Center, we will lose them,” he says.

Harley-Davidson’s Financial Center in Carson City booked the new convention space for its company party the first week of December. Don Hamilton, executive director of food and beverage, expects other clients to fall in line once word of the posh facilities spreads.

“The city has no clue what’s back here,” Hamilton says with obvious pride. “When this place opens, it is going to be a stunner.”

The convention space puts the Peppermill on track with the three area casinos offering similar facilities: John Ascuaga’s Nugget in Sparks, the Silver Legacy downtown, and the Grand Sierra. The Atlantis, meanwhile, is expanding its meeting and convention space.

The Peppermill’s existing convention space is split between three floors: 10,000 square feet on the 17th floor, 10,000 on the fourth, and 12,000 on the second. Because the current convention space is not contiguous, Chapman says, the casino had been limited to hosting smaller local events and company functions.

“We couldn’t go after the larger groups,” he says. “We can now solicit events that all the larger hotels in the community go after. Now we are joining the big guys.”

Chapman also expects the facility to compete directly with the downtown Reno Events Center as a concert venue. “I think they can do about 6,500 (people); we can do 6,000,” he says.

Underneath much of the convention center’s floor space lies one of the largest kitchens in northern Nevada, Hamilton says. The site has 15 walk-in refrigerators, as well as an entire room that can be sealed and used as refrigeration space if necessary. The space gleams with the shine of new stainless steel.

The facility’s best marketing facet may lie in the fact that it’s super shiny and new, Chapman says. “Conventions like new things. Clients aren’t afraid to tell you, ‘We are meeting at a particular location because they are brand new.

“What is really going to separate us is that we now offer a luxury product,” he adds. “That’s how I have been marketing us this past year. The new tower is an all-suite hotel, with a state-of-the-art ballroom, two new restaurants, a nightclub, a spa and another lounge – all these are going to be conducive to corporations who seek luxury destinations. I believe that is going to be one of the key selling points in bringing new business to Reno.”


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