|By Chris Van Wagenen, Lubbock
Avalanche-Journal, TexasMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jan. 18, 2009 - While the Overton Park Hotel & Conference Center has captured the imagination of the city, it's what many haven't seen that's being marketed behind the scenes.
From demonstration or mock-up rooms to a $10,000 price tag that promises a two-night guarantee for all Texas Tech home games over the next decade, this hotel has already made itself the place to be.
Talk about a marketing effort, this luxury hotel is already making a name for itself six months from its official July opening date.
"You look at other hotels and this one is just so beautiful. I love it. I just get the biggest kick when I come out and visit there," said Steve Moffett, president of the hospitality division for Dallas-based Garfield Traub Corp. the property's developer.
But there's more going on here than this statuesque tower that sits in the heart of the city's largest revitalization effort.
This is a hotel that's now being marketed, booked and sold to
everyone from Texas Tech to convention outfits and even individuals,
That's because Garfield Traub and 1810, i.e. Gal-Tex Corp., are working every hour of the day booking the hotel and its 302 rooms.
Several months ago, the two partners, with help from McDougal Cos., made the decision to open a sales office at the Centre at Overton Park -- the first major apartment structure built in the 325-acre target zone off University Avenue.
In November, Garfield and 1810 opened two full-sized king and queen model rooms, which the companies have been using to market the property.
"These rooms are built to scale where our owners, workers and clients have given us their opinions. The majority of people have been pleased with what they've seen," said Hunter Carmichael, who was brought on board as general manager to operate the massive hotel and its adjoining conference center.
The king and double-queen rooms, which embrace tranquil earth tones and furniture fit for a four-star hotel, are being heavily marketed to a vast number of professional organizations, including the colleges of Texas Tech, which are expected to be a heavy user of the property.
Tech will also play a huge role in the property's day-to-day operations as part of the university's prominent Restaurant, Hotel and Institutional Management program whose students will be hired on as a working semester lab.
But until July, this property is about booking and sales, which both Carmichael and Moffett said is exceeding initial expectations.
The Overton property, when opened, will boast a presidential suite, 104 king-bedrooms, four king suite rooms, 11 king-deluxe rooms, 181 queen-queen rooms and two hospitality suites.
"If people have something they want to book, we'd love to show them these model rooms. We expect to be open in July, but just in case we are asking groups to have contingency plan in place," Carmichael said.
Moffett, and project manager Tom Topalski, said they expect the property to be opened by the first week of July if all goes as planned.
Carmichael said October is already proving to be a big month for the luxury property where five groups have already booked organizational functions at the hotel.
Overton Hotel rooms generally will be priced from $169 to $189 a night -- higher during peak event weekends, which is typical for example, during Texas Tech football seasons when rooms citywide are at a premium.
In the meantime, Carmichael and his sales staff are busy booking as many rooms in advance as they can.
"We've already conducted some site tours for some (professional) associations that are coming here and we have the support of the conventions bureau (Visit Lubbock) who were already closing sales even before I got here," he said.
Carmichael called it a "unified sales effort" that will pay off big dividends on both sides once the property is opened.
And that includes an effort to attract Texas Tech graduates through the university's alumni association.
Moffett said the hotel has already created a program with that in mind.
"We're marketing a program right now that will allow alumni to reserve a room for two nights over 10 years during every home Tech football game," he said.
The cost: $10,000. Moffett said the program, still in its infancy, has already attracted a few takers
Tom Topalski, the project's construction manager, said most of the interior of the building has been dry-walled and that 99 percent of the brick work has been completed up to the roof line.
"Right now, we're still on schedule to open the first week of July," he said.
On a daily basis, Topalski said there are anywhere from 250 to 300 workers on site representing more than 1,000 trades day-in and day-out.
He said what's been amazing is the collaborative effort between Turner and Lee Lewis construction corporations that have worked hand-in-hand.
"It's been simply phenomenal to watch. They're simply seamless," he said.
Carmichael, on the other hand, is working to an end.
"There are a lot of large groups who have always wanted to come to Lubbock, but we're never able too. They're very excited that this property (hotel and conference center) is coming online."
"We've already had a few site tours, but we want people locally to see (the model) rooms. This market needed a hotel like this," he said.
Added Moffett: "This property is turning out more then we envisioned. It's a brand that will stack up to any Marriott or Hilton (hotel) property ... the quality, the finish ... this is an upscale hotel."
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BUSINESS/As Lubbock's luxury hotel goes up, so do marketing efforts to show what the hotel and conference center may offer Overton Hotel & Conference Center
--Location: 2322 Mac Davis Lane.
--What: Developer and management company have constructed full-size king and queen model bedrooms for the public to inspect for future bookings.
--Where: The Centre at Overton Park (ground floor behind Chili's), 2400 Glenna Goodacre Boulevard.
--Viewing opportunities: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
--Web site: www. overtonhotel.com
Source: Overton Hotel & Conference Center
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