WEIRTON - A recently completed three-year, $3 million makeover at the Holiday Inn on Three Springs Drive has been a game changer, Sales Director Brad Degenkolb says.
And it couldn't have come at a better time.
"Our market has significantly changed," he said. "It's heavily oil-and-gas driven now, compared to 2005-2006 when this area was still clinging to steel and manufacturing industries. We're heavily geared now toward corporate travellers - corporate travellers want a business center, they want a bar in the restaurant and everyone wants clean, comfortable rooms."
A SUITE SPOT FOR EXECUTIVES — Donna Six, a 15-year veteran of the Holiday Inn of Weirton’s housekeeping staff, plumps pillows in one of the hotel’s newly renovated executive suites.
-- Linda Harris
THE FIRST IMPRESSION — The Holiday Inn’s three-year, $3 million overhaul began with the facade.
-- Linda Harris
FORMAL DINING AREA — The walls can be opened up to transform the formal dining room into a banquet space that can accommodate up to 250 or 300 guests for formal parties, weddings and corporate events.
-- Linda Harris
They started in 2009 by giving the facade a facelift. Once that was done they moved indoors, working their way from floor to floor until all 120 guest rooms as well as public areas had been refreshed.
"We weren't supposed to be done until the end of May, but we were done two weeks early," General Manager JoAnn Babela said. "It took all of our employees to do it; everybody pitched in."
Degenkolb figures the cooperation had a lot to do with the staff's commitment to the future. "They knew how important it was" to have the work done as quickly as possible, he said, pointing out that near the end of the project, housekeepers "were working alongside the contractors."
The hotel was built in the late 1970s, and Degenkolb said there wasn't anything they could do about the size or layout of the rooms. Instead, they focused on what they could change, like the carpets, mattresses and box springs, bedding and furniture. They also added fresh paint and new wall coverings and equipped each room with a 37-inch flat-screen TV, mini-refrigerator and microwave ovens.
"The guest rooms themselves were completely gutted," Babela said. "Nothing that was in them before stayed."
But she said it's the little extras, like building additional outlets into desks and at bedside, that delivered a big return on their guest appeal.
"Guests don't have to rip the bedding apart any more to find an outlet," Babela said. "Now they're on the nightstand."
Public areas also were upgraded, with new carpeting and wall coverings as well as furniture. They also put new equipment in the fitness and business centers and gave their in-house restaurant, Undos, a sports bar feel, though there's still a formal dining area for those who prefer a quiet, more traditional backdrop at mealtime. Undos, part of the popular Wheeling-based Italian restaurant group, caters all of their parties and banquets, in addition to operating the restaurant and sports bar. They've been with the hotel since 2004, a decision that might have surprised some, "but they also looked at the investment going on in the area, they looked at the market here," Babela said.
"They know, as we do, that things are going to keep getting better," she said.
And that transformation, to outsiders, may be hardest to believe: With the oil and gas industry taking off locally, occupancy is at all-time highs.
"Renovating is the smartest move we could have made, and we timed it perfectly," she said. "Our market has grown tremendously over the past 18 months. We're seeing growth year after year. The market's there."
Guest rooms offer a mix of queen and double beds, though they do have four executive suites equipped with king-sized beds, a sitting/entertainment area and kitchenette. The hotel also boasts an outdoor pool, fitness and business centers and coin-operated laundry for guests. It's meeting/banquet space is flexible, so they can easily accommodate up to 250 or 300 guests for weddings, private parties and corporate events.
(Harris can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)