The Hotel del Coronado is more than just a hotel to locals. The iconic landmark that is synonymous with our city is also the place of multi-generational memories, childhood adventures (and maybe some shenanigans), and milestone celebrations from proms to birthdays to weddings. Over the years the hotel’s general managers, those temporary stewards of our red-turreted victorian treasure, quickly realize the passionate interest locals take in the goings-on of ‘our’ hotel.
Current General Manager Harold Rapoza Jr. has the privilege and responsibility of being at the helm during the implementation of the hotel’s next chapter. The Master Plan is billed as the “most costly upgrade since the hotel opened in 1888.” As such, he is in the unique position of protecting the investment of his employer while navigating the ardent interests and concerns of the local community. Finding time his very busy schedule was difficult, but here in a Q&A with the Coronado Eagle & Journal, Mr. Rapoza discusses his personal perspectives on being in Coronado and the Del’s Master Plan.
EJ: The entire Master Plan project was estimated at $400 million over four years. It seems as though it is actually a back to back series of smaller projects, many of which have already been completed, like the parking structure and the ‘Cabanas Neighborhood’ around the main pool. What is your personal favorite of all the scheduled projects?
HR: All of our projects are very unique in their own way. The Cabana project certainly was a major milestone and an amazing transformation with our renovated guest rooms, ocean view fire pits, refreshed Cabana pool and new rooftop Sun Deck restaurant. My ultimate favorite is the restoration of our historic front porch, main lobby and new grand entry. It will enhance the sense of arrival and bring us back to the Victorian era.
EJ: Coronado residents are skeptical, to put it mildly, of change. Especially with a historic entity such as the Del. The Master Plan to “preserve, revitalize and produce new aspects of the hotel” seems to be doing a good job of balancing all three of those objectives. Can you share one of the most exciting historic preservation projects of the plan?
HR: We put a lot of thought into the future of The Del and have made historic preservation a key part of the Master Plan. In addition to the Ice House Museum that will showcase The Del’s history and other historic buildings that have been restored, one of the most exciting preservation projects has been the Front Porch. We are bringing the entry back to its former glory with a partial recreation of the original veranda and two lobby entrances. Non-historic additions are being removed, some of the original brick chimney is being restored, the original stained glass window is being repaired and returned to its original location, and other stained glass windows are being recreated. The second-floor balcony will also be rebuilt.
EJ: Speaking of the different projects, what is the next ‘Big Reveal’ that the public will be able to see?
HR: Summer will be an exciting time at The Del with the debut of the new grand entry and Front Porch with public enhancements on Orange Avenue and Avenida del Sol. We will also launch the upgraded rooms in The Views ‘neighborhood’ (formerly Ocean Towers) with a new activity rentals area on the beach side. The Windsor Lawn, a focal point for the property, will be refreshed as well. Plus we are planning lots of new activities for summer that we can’t wait to share.
EJ: Navigating a landmark hotel through major construction during the summer of 2020, in one of the busiest tourist towns in the country, was going to be a challenge. Then came the pandemic. What was the biggest challenge for you during that time and was there a silver lining?
HR: The biggest challenge for us was managing low business levels and limited staffing levels. It’s heartbreaking that so many of our team members and those in the hospitality industry in general were out of work for so long. Our active team members had to deal with a completely different environment and constantly changing health regulations, all while maintaining a high level of service. The silver lining was being able to push through these projects with lower occupancy so we weren’t disturbing our guests, and to ensure this National Historic Landmark is preserved for generations to come.
EJ: Between navigating the guest experience and construction progress, how do you find time to get it all done? Do you have your own room to sleep in at the hotel?
HR: No, I do not have my own room. I’m grateful to our team. We have an amazing group of team members and managers who are passionate about what they do here. They definitely rose up to the occasion and it made us stronger.
EJ: The Del has generously supported local groups and organizations over the years. What is one of your favorite local partnerships/initiatives?
HR: We truly value our partnership with the Coronado Schools Foundation. We have continued our relationship with them for decades and are happy to continue our partnership because we know we are making a difference in our neighbor’s children’s education and future.
EJ: You have been here for almost four years. What is your favorite thing to do in Coronado when you are not at the hotel?
HR: I love golfing at the Coronado Golf Center and doing anything outdoors, like riding our bikes and walking the island.