Pan Am Games Highlight Need for Hotel Space

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?

Hamilton Needs More Hotel Rooms

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.

A Gift that Keeps on Giving

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.

Lorne Opler is a freelance writer on the side, and has recently moved to Hamilton from Toronto. Coming from a city where anonymity is a way of life, Lorne is amazed by how friendly and approachable people are in Hamilton, and finds himself always telling people from Toronto (who don't know better) what a great place Hamilton is.


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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted November 24, 2009 at 19:30:46

According to Hamilton City Council we don't need hotels. In fact we need to convert former hotels to welfare housing because Hamilton needs more welfare bums and fewer hotel guests spending money in the core.

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By Ruffa Pokpok (anonymous) | Posted November 24, 2009 at 22:07:19

We need more bums and crack addicts in downtown according to our politicians that why theyre converting the old connaught into bum house.

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By Godfather (anonymous) | Posted November 24, 2009 at 22:09:49

^well said

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By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted November 24, 2009 at 23:12:36

I agree that we need more hotel space. It would be great to have the Connaught returned to its rightful place as a prestigious hotel. A 5 star hotel in Hamilton at this point, however, is a bit of a stretch. The word on the street is that banks like conventional buildings in conventional markets. The Connaught is niether. I don't think that means we throw in the towel and take any use as better than nothing. There is no reason why this building can't be converted to a 3.5 or four star hotel. The city needs to put gentle pressure on the current ownership group to actually build something instead of waiting for more government handouts. They have the money to finance the renaissance of this building, but choose not to do it. Harry Stinson had a great plan, but couldn't get the funds. Unfortunately, the City Council has endorsed this conversion to public housing. With any luck, the banks will pass on bankrolling a $40 million renovation of a building which, under the current plan, would have little collateral value. In the meantime, we should all write to our local mpp as well as the Minsiter of Housing and Municipal Affairs, Jim Watson, to express our reservations about the Connaught projfect.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted November 25, 2009 at 07:16:39

The author writes: Hamilton Needs More Hotel Rooms

But it the real world what is really needed is affordable housing. Housing is a real issue in the city.

The author writes: 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.

But in the real world, the city has given 500,000 to the various food banks just this year, as they are buckling under the pressure, to feed many in this city.

Should not the priority be those who are struggling, those the over 54,000 in this city that has lost their jobs, never mind all the others before them?

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By z jones (registered) | Posted November 25, 2009 at 08:48:39

False alternative grassroots, why can't the city do both?

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted November 25, 2009 at 09:08:49

Zjones: Yes, why can"t the city do both?

Maybe this explains it:

Homelessness and Golf

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By Martinusg (anonymous) | Posted November 26, 2009 at 20:08:12

Actually... we don't have 3 major brands anymore. The Crowne Plaza lost the right to work under the "Crowne Plaza" label due to several issues with the establishment. It's now a privately operated hotel working under the name "the Plaza Hotel"

The Vranich projects at the old HMP are stalled, I believe... In future we may see a Hilton apparently...

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 26, 2009 at 22:20:06

....or more illegal parking lots.....

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By ward 2 (anonymous) | Posted November 27, 2009 at 03:39:27

Most of the illegal parking lots are owned by Bratina's buddy!

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By seriously (anonymous) | Posted November 30, 2009 at 17:36:29

I think grassroots has been hitting the grass a little too much. Build the bum tower out of ivor wynn. We won't need it anymore. Keep downtown useable.

Hey at least we have greasy Vranich the Hotelier eager to build

oh wait, no, that's just a parking lot

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By woody10 (registered) | Posted December 01, 2009 at 02:21:47

Wasn't there a plan to build a hotel on the Mac Research Site by the highway????

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By Specwatch (anonymous) | Posted December 01, 2009 at 09:38:57

The author ignores the massive build-up of hotel/motel space along the QEW in Oakville and Burlington. I would suspect that the vacancy rates at those explains why the multiple hotel dreams in Hamilton are unable to attract financing, and leads the promoters to stand around with their caps out for city deals.

On a related note, look at the Spec yesterday: you have a key downtown commercial landlord admitting that most of downtown commercial office spcae is owned by a small number of large firms, and also speaking in favour of below-prime loans to such landlords to upgrade their spaces for new tenants, and no investigative reporting on how profitable those firms were. We have a sad way in this city of inventing ways of doing corporate welfare, without really making sure where the dollars might actually bring us something extra, as compared to padding the bottom line of already profitable firms.

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By seriously (anonymous) | Posted December 02, 2009 at 19:04:03

woody, Most of the MIP land can't be used for residential because it's old industrial, meaning it's so full of nasty that you wouldn't want your kids playing on it. Hooray for industry. Whether that eliminates it from potential hotel use I don't know, but my guess is it's a no-go.

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By woody10 (registered) | Posted December 29, 2009 at 23:43:44

I found this posting on the Innovation park website -

McMaster Innovation Park continues to work with private developers on plans for a hotel at the Park.

Although the plans for the hotel have not yet been finalized, the project includes a long-stay suites hotel for a total of over 140 rooms with meeting and conference facilities on site and at the Annex in 175 Longwood Rd. South.

The facilities would be designed to accommodate researchers and business people visiting the Research Park, but the hotel will also be open to the public.

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