|By Lan Nguyen, Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, Wash.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
June 11, 2004 - The Royal Hotel in Richland not only has a new owner, it also will get a new name June 28.
The property, which will be renamed The Clarion Hotel, was purchased Dec. 10, 2003, by Joo Kim for $4.05 million according to the Benton County Treasurer's Office. The hotel was bought from previous owner Sung H. Suh, who had owned it since June 2003.
Along with the name, there will be many other changes for the hotel, said Ginny Hill, general manager, adding it will return "to the glory days." Thirteen years ago, Hill worked at the hotel when it was the Best Western Tower Inn.
A proposal that would have placed gaming facilities in the hotel generated months of controversy because of the hotel's proximity to Jefferson Elementary School. The Richland School Board successfully stopped a liquor license application by the hotel's previous owners in January 2002 and ended the push for a casino.
Hill said the remodel is expected to cost $2 million. Already remodeled are the conference rooms, carpets and furniture for the rooms. The hotel will feature a Tuscany theme, so visitors can get a taste of Italy when they stay there, she said.
With the new image, Hill said, The Clarion Hotel hopes to be more competitive. "We want to get it back to the way it used to be in the late '80s, when it was the hot spot," she said.
The Clarion is part of Choice Hotels International, one of the world's largest lodging franchisers. Choice Hotels International also owns Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Quality, MainStay Suites, Econo Lodge and Rodeway Inn.
The restaurant will be family oriented, featuring reasonably priced comfort food. There also will be a nightclub featuring music and comedy.
Another difference between the two is that The Clarion, unlike The Royal Hotel, does not want to include a casino. However, The Clarion has applied for a liquor license for the hotel's lounge.
City officials said the change in ownership also is good for Richland.
"The Clarion Hotel chain hasn't established itself in the market for this area yet, so it will give more options and variety to Richland," said Mark Smith, Richland economic development manager. "Hopefully, it will provide more hotel and motel tax to benefit the (Tri-Cities) Visitor & Convention Bureau."
Hill also said that being part of a larger chain also will help attract customers to the hotel.
"Choice Hotels is known internationally. We're hoping the Clarion name, as well as the remodel, will bring us greater visibility," Hill said.
The Richland hotel has 23,000 square feet with 195 rooms, 10 conference rooms, an indoor pool, hot tub, sauna and fitness center.
It originally was built as a Holiday Inn in 1973 by former owner Jack Nelson, who now owns Holiday Inn Express in Richland.
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