|By Robert Evatt, Tulsa World,
Okla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
August 19, 2010 --Calling the new Aloft Hotel "contemporary" is an understatement.
Bold swatches of light and color intersect in right angles and semi-circles all over the southeast Tulsa building, especially in the split-level central area that puts no barriers between the "Aloha" front desk and the wxyz bar.
Guests can see the difference for themselves starting Thursday, the official opening day for the world's 40th Aloft hotel, at 6716 S. 104th East Ave., on the west side of U.S. 169.
The 136-room facility, the first Aloft in Oklahoma and the first hotel under the Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. umbrella to open in Tulsa, was built by Andy Patel, owner and operator of numerous other hotels in the metro area.
Although the hotel's ultra-modern look is unusual for Tulsa, Patel said he believes the area is more than ready for the brand.
"If you bring in something new, Tulsans are attracted to it," he said. "Look at P.F. Chang and Wolfgang Puck Bistro. They're doing great."
Aloft's differences become apparent immediately after a visitor enters the common area -- there are no interior walls between the Aloha Desk, the grab-and-go food area dubbed Refuel, the wxyz bar, the pool table and the angular yet comfortable seating.
Kimberly Cole-Honea, director of sales at Aloft Tulsa, said the design is intended to appeal to travelers who want to interact with fellow guests rather than just stay in their rooms.
"We want to keep the energy flowing," she said. "It's to encourage people who want to stay down here and mingle."
There's not just conversation on the first floor. At night on weekends, the wxyz bar, which has multicolored LED lights peeking through holes in the bar itself, will feature DJs spinning music.
The bar spills out into the Backyard patio, which features benches surrounded by short central pillars that also are illuminated. A glass fireplace is visible from both indoors and outdoors.
On the opposite corner of the interior from the bar, four HDTVs are pushed together to form one image, and an LED ticker bends around the wall to provide news, sports, stock listings and other information, said Ken Morgan, general manager of the hotel.
"We cater to business travelers, and they want to be in the know," he said.
In addition to the pool, known as Splash and adorned with a large, lighted "A" logo at the bottom, Tulsa's Aloft is the first in the chain to have a whirlpool and a sauna.
Aside from those features and a meeting space, which at 1,058 square feet is nearly twice the size of the norm, the Tulsa hotel is designed just like all the others in the young brand, which was launched in 2005, Morgan said.
The rooms are different from the norm as well, with beds featuring high backs forming a wall between the sleeping area and the bathroom.
The wood paneling along the outer wall bends inward at the bottom to form two small corner desks, while a central padded bench underneath the HDTV forms the only seating area in the room.
"We took out the couches," Morgan said. "When people stay in hotel rooms, they don't spend much time sitting on furniture," he said.
A device called a Jack Pack serves as a central power station and connectivity hub in each room for MP3 players, cell phones, digital cameras and other devices, and can allow instant transmission of pictures or videos onto the room's TV.
But not everything's high-tech. Each room's clock has a decidedly retro-style mechanical face.
"Hotels have gone overboard with clock functionality, so we wanted to have something that's easy to use," Morgan said.
Robert Evatt 581-8447 firstname.lastname@example.org
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