Unwelcome notoriety: Guests seek Bryant's room

Updated: August 22, 2003, 3:48 PM ET

EDWARDS, Colo. -- It's a world of $5 tins of breath mints, wine tastings, croquet tournaments and art shows, where carefully cultivated insulation from the outside world is paramount.

The Lodge & Spa at Cordillera has the Ibanez suite and the Casals suite. Now there's an unofficial addition: the Kobe Bryant suite, where the NBA's most bankable superstar is accused of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old hotel concierge.

The case has brought attention in the form of unusually heavy weekday bookings, streams of reporters and camera crews to the guarded gatehouse and guests who want to book -- or at least sneak a look at -- Room 35.

The notoriety is far from welcome here, where customers pay $300 to $700 a night to relax in understated elegance amid sweeping views of the Rockies near the Vail ski resort.

Hotel managers are now refusing to speak to reporters, and allowed only a single photographer and TV cameraman a rigidly controlled visit to get file photos to share among the media.

Employees say they've been warned not to talk about what they know or might have heard about goings-on that night to the media or to the guests.

The tight lips are in keeping with a long-standing policy of discretion, said Kris Staaf, who is with a public relations firm hired by the hotel three days after Bryant was arrested.

"The privacy of the guests is something the hotel is very respectful of and we'd like to keep it that way," Staaf said.

Bryant checked into the lodge on June 30, one day before a scheduled knee surgery at a nearby clinic that caters to elite professional sports.

Accounts vary about what happened that night in the first-floor suite with its flagstone patio opening onto a manicured lawn. It ended with Bryant facing a felony sexual assault charge.

The Los Angeles Lakers star is free on bail, facing an Oct. 9 preliminary hearing at which a judge will decide if the evidence warrants sending the case to trial.

On Thursday, an Eagle County judge rejected a motion by several media organizations to release records that would detail the accusations.

Bryant's star status and the mystery surrounding the allegations have brought swarms of reporters and TV crews to Edwards, a town just down the hill from the Cordillera that is home to many who work in the ski and summer resorts dotted along Interstate 70, 125 miles west of Denver.

The case could boost business for years at Cordillera, said Todd Scholl, marketing director at the Canterbury Hotel in Indianapolis, where boxer Mike Tyson was convicted of raping a teenage beauty queen in 1991.

People still call the Canterbury asking to reserve the room where Tyson stayed, Scholl said, adding that the hotel refuses to do it.

"It will live with the property," Scholl said. "... People have a peculiar obsession with the bizarre."

Between the golf -- four courses, designed by Jack Nicklaus, Hale Irwin, Tom Fazio and Dave Pelz -- guided fly-fishing trips and seaweed wraps at the spa, there is quiet interest in the case among some guests, according to three Cordillera employees.

The employees said guests have asked about the case and the room. They also noted that weekday reservations were up, some from out-of-town journalists, and some from people they assumed were drawn by the notoriety.

None of the guests approached by reporters was any more willing to talk than the management, however.

"They don't want the publicity, wish it would go away," said one employee, a bartender. "There are some rich and powerful people up here who would rather not have their names associated with it."

Modeled after a Belgian estate, with white stucco walls, pine doors and a roof of native fieldstone and Chinese slate, the lodge sits high on a mountainside. The trademark isolation begins on the drive out of Edwards to the resort's lone gated entrance.

Through the gate, the well-maintained road winds past private homes at the end of long driveways. Deer graze among native grasses, sagebrush and trees.

In the lodge's lobby, a Steinway baby grand piano sits next to green leather-topped table with a wooden chessboard where workers saw Bryant playing chess with one of his entourage.

Bars and restaurants buzz with gossip in nearby towns including Vail, where some say the Cordillera is not considered part of the valley community.

"The only people that even see Cordillera are the members, workers and owners," said Rob Favreau, a waiter in nearby Avon. "The people who live here don't go to Cordillera. We don't associate with them."


On the Net: http://www.cordillera-vail.com

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index