By Gray Scott, The Business Press, Ontario, Calif.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
May 25--A Milwaukee-based chain is thinking about building a 105-room economy hotel next to Ontario Mills -- making it the third hotel project proposed in the shadow of the Inland Empire's biggest mall.
Budgetel Inns has applied for a conditional use permit for a four-story, 55,852-square-foot Baymont Inn & Suites that would include 15 suites and 90 standard rooms, Ontario assistant planner Steve Gonzales said.
"Budgetel has applied for a conditional use permit, but beyond that it's premature to say anything. It's not a guarantee that we'll be building on that site," said Kerri McLaughlin, a spokeswoman for the hotel chain. McLaughlin wouldn't provide details or a cost estimate for the project, which is proposed for the space between Mills Circle and Ontario Mills Parkway southwest of the mall.
Plans for the hotel include a conference room and fitness center, according to Gonzales. On average, Budgetel hotels charge less than $50 per night for a room, McLaughlin said. Budgetel is the largest subsidiary of Milwaukee-based The Marcus Corp., which also owns restaurants, movie theaters and several resorts, including the recently renovated Miramonte Resort in Indian Wells.
If the proposed Ontario hotel is built, it will be the third hotel in orbit around Ontario Mills. Country Side Suites by Ayres is under construction next to the proposed Baymont site and AmeriSuites recently opened on the southeast side of the mall.
The city has been searching for a larger hotelier to build a convention-style hotel, but most of the developers with plans to build hotel rooms in the area have opted for hotels with fewer than 150 rooms.
The Baymont and two other unfinished projects -- the 144-room La Quinta Inns & Suites on Inland Empire Boulevard and the 139-room Country Side Suites near the Mills mall -- would carry the number of hotel rooms in Ontario past the 4,000 mark, according to city spokesman George Urch. He said the city had 3,949 rooms in October.
"I just wonder if there's demand for all these (little hotels)," Urch said.
Developers of the Baymont, like those of AmeriSuites and a proposed 122-room Courtyard by Marriott, appear unfazed by the proliferation of small Ontario hotels. All say they expect to do well in Ontario due to a growing economy and new attractions like Ontario Mills and the California Speedway. "We always look for a mix of business and leisure at our sites, and that's why Ontario is such a great location," Budgetel's McLaughlin said.
The Budgetel chain is found in 30 states and has 152 hotels. It currently has a minimal West Coast presence, McLaughlin said. But an aggressive expansion schedule under the chain's new name will probably change that, she said. As part of an image overhaul begun in February, Budgetel plans to change its name and the names of all its hotels to Baymont Inns by Nov. 30.