If Hamilton wants to be taken seriously, it must build a showcase hotel, one that stands on par with any of the top-flight name brands
By Lorne Opler
Published November 24, 2009
With all the talk and debate now happening surrounding the Pan Am Games, a great deal of focus has been devoted to future projects in support the games, from light rail to GO service to the new stadium.
But as these big-ticket items take the forefront of debate, one other element cannot be overlooked: hotel space.
It's not an exaggeration to say that thousands of people will be visiting Hamilton for the games, from athletes, coaches and their families to dignitaries and spectators.
While many will be staying in Toronto and commuting to the events in Hamilton, there will be a significant number who will seek accommodation here - and likely those will be athletes.
Assuming hundreds of athletes and their support teams need places to lodge, how will Hamilton cope with this influx?
It's obvious that Hamilton needs many more rooms than it already has, especially in the downtown core.
At the present time, there are three major chain hotels in the core: Staybridge Inn (extended suites hotel), the Crowne Plaza and the Sheraton.
All are very good quality facilities, and all have recently either undergone or are in the process of undergoing renovations. Both the Crowne Plaza and Staybridge have approximately 200 rooms, while the Sheraton has 300.
While 700 rooms sounds like a lot, this will hardly fill the needs of all the visitors and tourists who will pour into the city in 2015.
Assuming the Connaught will not be renovated back into an inn, are there any new hotels on the horizon? As of the writing of this article, one developer is currently waiting for city to approve his plans for a 140 room, all-suites hotel to be erected at the corner of Main and Walnut.
Others are being planned as well; but in my opinion, what this city needs - especially in light of the Games - is a five star hotel: a destination hotel, a landmark, just like the Connaught used to be. Hamilton deserves this, and more importantly, Hamilton needs this.
Since I've arrived here, I am always hearing that Hamilton must begin to see itself as a city unto itself, not just a big suburb of Toronto.
If the city wants to be taken seriously - not just by its residents, but equally important, by convention organizers considering Hamilton for their next meeting - it must build a showcase hotel, one that stands on par with any of the top-flight name brands (Westin, Hyatt, Omni come to mind).
With all the talk about whether there will be any longevity and lasting benefit to building a stadium, building a five-star hotel is a no-brainer in terms of generating long term benefits to the city.
Long after the Games are over, a five-star hotel will not only be a place fitting to be the host hotel for new conventions, but also will help draw people back downtown again, becoming a destination for Hamiltonians and people in the surrounding area.
Imagine a special occasion dinner at its top-rated restaurants, dancing in its ballroom on New Year's eve, or even simply meeting for drinks after work in one of its lounges or bars.
As the saying goes, a five-star hotel - indeed, all new downtown hotels - will be "the gift that keeps on giving" to Hamilton.