|By Christian Jennings, WGNO-TV, Metairie,
La.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Oct. 19, 2011--NEW ORLEANS -- It's a historic day in New Orleans. The new and improved Hyatt Regency welcomes hotel guests Wednesday for the first time since Hurricane Katrina blew out most of the windows and shuttered the hotel in 2005.
Now, it's back in business. Better and shinier than ever.
"It's a great feeling. And today's a great day for the city of New Orleans," said General Manager Michael Smith took WGNO on an extensive tour of the 32 story hotel that underwent a $275 million rebuild.
"I've been working on this project for the past four and a half years. But I can sincerely say it's been a labor of love," said Smith. "The side of the building of the Hyatt was the image that symbolized the devastation of New Orleans. We were basically ground zero for the city, the Mayor, the fire department, police department."
Now the hotel is a symbol of hope and the future of the city.
"This is the final piece of the puzzle from a hospitality standpoint. We'll be back up to pre-Katrina levels as far as hotel room inventory goes," said Smith.
And talk about perfect timing. With the BCS Championship and Men and Women's Final Four coming up over the next several months, and the Superbowl next year, visitors will have more choices when looking to book a room.
With nearly 2,000 guest rooms, a sleek sports bar and restaurant, 200,000 square feet of meeting space, and a magnificent view of the Crescent City from the hotel's top floor, the Hyatt Regency seems to have it all.
"We've been able to compete with places like Las Vegas and have won on two different occasions to book conferences," said the General Manager.
So it's out with the old, and on with the new, making the six year wait well worth it.
The property also adds to the sparse selection of food and bar options in that area of downtown with several full service restaurants, a Starbucks and a 24 hour convenience store inside.
(c)2011 WGNO-TV (Metairie, La.)
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