|By Ryan Conley, Ocala Star-Banner, Fla.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Dec. 7--OCALA, Fla. -- The landmark lighted sign that brightly declares George Steinbrenner's Ramada Yankee Inn on Interstate 75 will soon be dimmed as the prominent lodging facility has been sold to another hotel company.
DSM Group LLC, which features members that also own the Best Western at State Road 200 and I-75, last week closed on the 124-room property at the U.S. 27 interchange, a package which also includes about seven acres of land, restaurant and combination convention center/banquet facility. The price recorded with the county was $4.45 million.
Don Steimle, who heads Steinbrenner's Kinsman Hotel division, said the deal came together in a hurry.
"We never had the hotel up for sale," said Steimle, who in September told the Star-Banner the hotel was not on the market. "It moved very quickly after that."
Chandu Doshi, managing partner of DSM Group, said the facility will retain the Ramada brand, and will keep the restaurant's name of Pinstripe Bar & Grill. He said at least $500,000 in renovations will be completed over the course of the next year, including an exterior facelift, adding the current staff will stay on board.
"It will remain a hotel and conference center, we want to carry on what George Steinbrenner had in place," said Doshi, whose family is involved in the ownership of seven hotels in Ocala, Chiefland, Jacksonville, Chicago and St. Louis. "We think it is one of the best hotel properties in Ocala."
Last week, the Ocala City Council approved a new liquor permit for the site -- a mandatory move when a property changes hands, said city zoning chief Nancy Overstreet.
Steimle said Steinbrenner's hotel division was willing to sell because it had found a niche in smaller, less intensive lodging facilities.
Construction on a new 87-room Residence Inn by Marriott should start early next year at the S.R. 200 and I-75 interchange. Kinsman Hotel also owns the Fairfield Inn and Courtyard by Marriott at that exit.
"Mr. Steinbrenner will still have a strong presence in hotels in Ocala," he said. "We want to focus on our new hotels, which are more of the limited-service type."
Steinbrenner, who also owns a thoroughbred operation, Kinsman Farm, in Marion County, originally acquired the Ramada in 1989 for $2.2 million from Florida Motor Hotels Inc., which was headed by the late equine pioneer, Bonnie M. Heath. The primary hotel area was built in 1965, according to county property records, and the 9,700 square foot convention/banquet facility, which can seat 350 people, was added in 1973.
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