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$60 million Uptown Marriott Hotel and Conference Center,
Normal, Illinois Opening Delayed

By Mary Ann Ford, The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Ill.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Aug. 27, 2009--NORMAL -- The uptown Marriott Hotel and Conference Center won't open until at least mid-October, and some groups with booked events are looking at contingency plans.

"There's still a ton of work to do," said General Manager Jeff Pritts. "It's a $60 million project. With any construction project, you have to be able to adapt to the project and the twists and turns. You always know there's a possibility it won't open when you think."

When the Normal City Council toured the hotel in late July, Pritts said he hoped the nine-story, 230-room hotel would be open by late September.

That was Shari Buckellew's hope as well. Buckellew, manager of the Children's Discovery Museum, planned to use the hotel and accompanying conference center for the annual conference of the Illinois Association of Museums Sept. 30-Oct. 2.

"Jeff (Pritts) kept me informed (on the hotel's progress)," Buckellew said. The Marriott staff also helped Buckellew come up with a contingency plan for the conference. It now will be held at Jumer's Chateau.

While Buckellew said she's disappointed the conference can't be at the new uptown hotel, the museum hopes to use the Marriott for its Sweet Discoveries fundraiser in February.

Meanwhile Illinois State University event planners also have a contingency plan for the university's Homecoming Uptown and Gown Gala on Oct. 17, said ISU spokesman Jay Groves.

The event is scheduled for the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center but if it is not yet open, Groves said it will be moved to an on-campus site.

"Marriott has been great to work with," he said.

Pritts said he hopes the hotel will be open by Oct. 14 -- plenty of time for the ISU homecoming. The hotel has a list of people interested in rooms if they are available.

"We have made no promises we'll be open," he said.

In the meantime, Marriott headquarters does feel confident enough in the construction timeline to give the Normal hotel permission to start booking rooms online beginning Nov. 1, Pritts said. That would be in time to accommodate ISU parents coming for family weekend Nov. 6-7, he said.

Normal Mayor Chris Koos said he knows people are getting anxious for the hotel to open.

"It's a big, big project ... and takes on a life of its own in the sense of timelines," he said.

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To see more of The Pantagraph, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.pantagraph.com.

Copyright (c) 2009, The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Ill.

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