|By Rosalie Rayburn, Albuquerque Journal, N.M.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Aug. 16, 2004 - ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- In about a month drivers approaching the Big I interchange can look for a trio of very large pyramid-shaped skylights atop the Embassy Suites hotel under construction at Lomas and Interstate 25.
Slated to open in April, the nine-story hotel will have 261 suite-style rooms, 30,000 square feet of meeting space and a novel check-in system.
The 17-feet-tall skylights are a much larger version of those that top the giant atrium at Albuquerque's other Hammons hotel, the Marriott Pyramid North.
The hotel also is creating 200 permanent new jobs with salaries a Hammons representative said will be "competitive."
Instead of the traditional check-in counter, the hotel will have four kiosks where guests can request rooms, confirm reservations and pick up their room keys.
Unlike at computerized airline ticket kiosks, hotel staff will work individually with guests at each kiosk, said Mark Gundlach, general manager of the Marriott Pyramid North.
Gundlach is acting as the Albuquerque representative for hotel magnate John Q. Hammons, who is based in Springfield, Mo.
The registration lobby will open onto a nearly 7,000-square-foot atrium with potted plants, a fountain and a waterfall.
Three glass-fronted elevators will take guests from the atrium to the suites. All bedrooms face outward, with views of the mountains or the West Mesa.
Room rates will be between $89 and $225 on weekends and more for business guests during the week.
Adjoining the atrium will be a cybercafe with broadband Internet access, an indoor pool, a whirlpool and a body treatment spa, Gundlach said.
The hotel will have two ballrooms, one of them capable of seating 800 people, several smaller meeting rooms and a special events room for private parties or banquets.
Springfield, Mo.-based Killian Construction Co. broke ground for the hotel last August. About 130 workers have been involved in the construction, many of them Albuquerque-based subcontractors, said Killian superintendent Steve Valdez.
Construction workers recently completed the hotel's top floor. The atrium's skylights will be hoisted into place within about a month.
Natalee Cardon, the Albuquerque Embassy Suites director of sales, has started to recruit sales and catering staff.
A job fair will be held, possibly in early March, to hire additional hotel staff for the planned April opening, Gundlach said.
Last year, hotel owner Hammons overcame opposition from some Downtown hotel owners to win Albuquerque City Council approval for a seven-year property tax break to build the hotel.
Downtown hotel owners, including Jim Long, owner of the Sheraton Old Town hotel, said the new hotel would hurt business in the already overbuilt Downtown market.
City officials and the Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau said the hotel should boost business for Albuquerque's convention center by providing a large new chunk of rooms for the Downtown area that will appeal to larger conventions.
Tom Morton, general manager for SMG-Albuquerque Convention Center, also said the new hotel will compete with the Convention Center for local events held by military, educational, religious and fraternal groups.
But the additional rooms, he added, will allow recruitment of larger gatherings.
"From that perspective, sure, we'll all be looking to bring those events," Morton said.
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