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Construction Starts on 95-room Bridgewood Hotel
 and Conference Center, Neenah, Wisconsin

By Avi Stern, The Post-Crescent, Appleton, Wis.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

May 27, 2004 - NEENAH, Wis. -- Ultimately, Rich Batley and his partners want to mix city cool with country charm.

Construction officially begins Friday on the three-story, 95-room Bridgewood Hotel and Conference Center, 1000 Cameron Way, which will become the centerpiece of the $35 million redevelopment of the Bridgewood Golf Course.

It will be Neenah's third hotel, behind the Holiday Inn Neenah Riverwalk on E. Wisconsin Avenue and the Days Inn of Fox Cities on S. Green Bay Road.

"I love our location," said Batley, one of the $10 million hotel's owners. "It's the first one coming into the Fox Cities (from the south) ... 68,000 cars go by that site each day.

"It's a very unique setting. Typically, you'd find this type of resort property in a country setting, but we have put it right in the middle of the city."

Batley of Neenah and his partners, Gary Laeyendecker of Menasha and Jim Geertz of Little Chute, are the driving force behind the project.

The new hotel will have a 10,000-square-foot conference center with a dining room capable of seating 500 people. It also will offer four smaller conference rooms and will connect to the Ground Round Grill & Bar, 1010 Cameron Way, which opened last fall.

The hotel also will boast a 5,500-square-foot aquatic center, which will include an activity pool, a children's pool, a game room and a 50-person indoor-outdoor whirlpool for year-round use.

Robert Dove, recently named general manager of the Bridgewood, said the facility will attract business from the surrounding "business campus." Plexus, Menasha Corp., Neenah Foundry, Kimberly-Clark Corp. and Jeweler's Mutual Insurance Co. are among the major employers within minutes of the facility.

"I could easily see businesspeople playing nine holes of golf in between meetings," said Dove, a 20-year hospitality professional, who most recently served as the general manager of the Landmark Resort in Egg Harbor.

"Based on the original plans -- and the quality that was built into the facility, the amenities -- we will meet and exceed the expectations, quite honestly, of not just for corporate travelers but leisure travelers as well." Dove said.

One early winner is apparent: When Neenah officials agreed to invest $3 million in infrastructure improvements to facilitate the redevelopment, city planners had banked on a $25 million tax base increase in the tax base. The project now has an anticipated value increase of more than $35 million.

Batley is exploring the addition of tennis and basketball courts as well as kayaks that can reach Little Lake Butt des Morts from the Bridgewood site.

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