If it never changed – or just tweaked a few things – Kiawah Island Golf Resort would remain one of the nation’s top luxury destinations. But the resort, about 30 miles south of Charleston, S.C., is not standing pat. Kiawah Island Golf Resort, which includes the posh Sanctuary Hotel and Pete Dye’s legendary Ocean Course (along with four other courses), is well underway with plans that will take it into 2021 and beyond.
The most significant plan calls for a new 150-room beachfront hotel in Kiawah’s West Beach neighborhood. The new hotel, which will sit close to the site of the island’s original Kiawah Island Inn (also 150 rooms) will feature a spa, large balconies, numerous restaurants and a bar call “Topsiders.’’
Not-so coincidentally, Topsiders was also the name of the bar that overlooked the dunes at Kiawah Island Inn. The Inn was closed on Jan 1, 2004 – the same day the 255-room Sanctuary Hotel opened.
In addition, the island’s Night Heron Park is being completely renovated, with a new nature center, fitness center, pavilion art center and Town Center Market, and a 144-seat chapel that connects with The Sanctuary will soon break ground.
The West Beach hotel, said Bill Lacey, general manager of The Sanctuary, will be a bit more relaxed than its Five Diamond, Five Star sister, but will maintain the same quality of guest service as The Sanctuary. The hotel, Lacey said, is expected to attract more families to Kiawah Island Golf Resort.
“It (the new hotel) is a such a great destination on the beach,’’ Lacey said. “That’s what made Kiawah so popular back in the 1970’s and ‘80’s.
“The Sanctuary had a lot more group (business) in its first few years – the transient market was 40 to 45 percent As the years have gone on, the size of the (transient) business has increased to about 60 percent. So as we start to layer in our business in the new hotel, we’re anticipating more groups coming back to The Sanctuary and have more attractive opportunities for leisure business at the new hotel.’’
That West Beach hotel will be the centerpiece of the renovation of West Beach neighborhood – Kiawah Island’s oldest neighborhood – that also includes a new clubhouse (under construction) for the Cougar Point golf course, a conference center with approximately 23,000 square feet of meetings space and a check-in center for the resort’s 500 rental villas.
The Cougar Point clubhouse, which will feature the resort’s first sports bar, is expected to re-open next year, while the West Beach hotel is scheduled for a January 2021 opening.
“We have always talked about revitalizing that part of the island,’’ Lacey said. “This is the accumulation of years of discussion and plans.’’
Undoubtedly what received a great deal of discussion and planning – and likely will receive a considerable amount is the attention – will be the Ocean Course cottages. To be built directly beside the Ocean Course, the four, four-bedroom cottages (original plans called for only two cottages) will be complete when the Ocean Course hosts the PGA Championship in May 2021.
“We have been talking about doing the hotel, the clubhouse, the conference center and the chapel for the past five-plus years,’’ Lacey said. “We’ve used a number if different architects throughout the island. Putting it all together is like one big puzzle, but we have some great resources and have gotten some great advice, so we are well prepared.’
Feature photo: Kiawah Island Resort