WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- AAA on Friday released its annual Five Diamond Award list, denoting the top hotels in the United States -- and for the first time in 36 years, The Greenbrier isn't on it.
The resort in White Sulphur Springs, despite spending $300 million to improve its appearance, received four diamonds.
In a prepared statement sent to the Gazette-Mail, Greenbrier President Jeff Kmiec said the resort learned last year that it "would be rated four diamonds in 2013 primarily as a result of our standard rooms -- bedrooms and bathrooms -- being too small to meet the current criteria for five diamond hotels."
Kmiec said the rooms in question represent "less than 10 percent" of the resort's 710 guest rooms.
"We made it clear to AAA from the start that we were unwilling and unable to alter the size of these rooms to meet the current standards," Kmiec said in the statement. "We simply cannot alter the footprint of the hotel in order to meet the new standard. We cannot destroy hundreds of years of legacy and history for larger bathrooms."
Kmiec quoted The Greenbrier resort owner Jim Justice, "That's like asking to change the face of Mount Rushmore; we won't do it."
Kmiec said The Greenbrier did try to raise its standards. The resort has spent $300 million on renovations and additions, he said.
"We attempted to appease AAA by updating the interiors of these rooms. The rooms look absolutely beautiful," Kmeic wrote.
He credited the resort's interior designer, Carleton Varney, "talented craftspeople," including the plumbers, HVAC technicians, electricians, painters, carpenters, upholstery and housekeeping teams for the updated look.
AAA appreciated the room upgrades and additions to the resort but "they were unwilling to give us exemption concerning the size of the standard rooms" and "declined our appeals," Kmiec said.