|By Kevin Leininger, The News-Sentinel,
Fort Wayne, Ind.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Aug. 24, 2011--To Rob Evans, downtown Fort Wayne offers far more than just his latest job.
"Every city is measured by its downtown, and if I was going to change positions, it had to be to a downtown property," said the man who three weeks ago succeeded Andy Crowel as general manager of the two-year-old Courtyard by Marriott hotel at 1202 S. Harrison St.
The position represents something of a homecoming for the 45-year-old Canadian, who came to town five years ago as manager of the downtown Hilton, returned to Canada in 2007 but came back a year later to run the then-new Holiday Inn near the Memorial Coliseum.
It was a good job, Evans said -- but not good enough to keep him once Crowel moved back to Texas and opportunity knocked in the heart of the city.
"This hotel has been really successful, and we're ahead of schedule. But we want to be the No. 1 hotel in the market," said Evans, who would not give occupancy figures but said his 250-room facility draws business not only from the nearby Grand Wayne Center and Parkview Field, but also corporate clients who have helped fill the hotel to capacity this week despite the Tin Caps' current road trip.
Evans expects that kind of success to continue -- a confidence bolstered by this fall's scheduled start of the Harrison Square residential-commercial project. Evans is so bullish on downtown, in fact, that he's even predicting construction of a third hotel within five years, which in turn would attract still more conventions and the businesses that cater to them.
As head of a new and successful hotel, Evans said few updates and changes are required. But he does have a few things in mind, such as the establishment of an "802 Club" that would offer VIP perks at the hotel's Champions sports bar and restaurant for anybody who works or lives downtown.
That's the 46802 ZIP code, of course.
As for his own future, Evans doesn't seem to be looking too far ahead. "We have a lot of synergy in place to grow and promote downtown Fort Wayne, and it's really exciting," he said. "I like it here, and my wife is from here. This is home."
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