|By Sharon Dunn, Greeley Tribune,
Colo.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Sep. 30, 2007 - If travelers can't find a place to stay in northern Colorado, pretty soon, there could be a bidding war for their travel dollars in a five-mile stretch of Interstate 25.
The number of hotels expected to open in the next couple of years from Interstate 25 and U.S. 34 to the Crossroads Boulevard intersection could flood the area with more than 500 rooms -- that added to a mix of already five major hotels that already offer 353 rooms.
At a time when the economy is supposed to be in a slump with two years of record foreclosures, followed by a year of record bankruptcies, hoteliers aren't running scared. The race for travel dollars is a whole different ball game than the race for retail sales.
"The only thing that gives me comfort is I've traveled over similar markets and they have a lot more rooms than are currently here," said Rob Uehran, co-owner of Spirit Hospitality, which is building Holiday Inn Express at the Crossroads Boulevard and Interstate 25, the first in the expected wave hotel openings through 2009. "We know this market is healthy and there's new demand being created with the hospital and retail" being built.
Uehran's 82-room Holiday Inn Express is just the beginning; it should open in October. Near the Medical Center of the Rockies, Uehran also is building a 65-room Candlewood Suites.
John Q. Hammons recently announced the eight-story, 263-room Embassy Suites Hotel and convention center near the Budweiser Events Center at Crossroads and I25.
On Tuesday, Chrisland Inc. announced a buyer for almost 3 acres at the southeast corner of the I25 and U.S. 34 development called 2534. Intermountain Management, based in Monroe, La., spent $1.54 million to eventually build a Homewood Suites, an extended stay hotel, to the development by Spring 2009. That will be another 100 rooms.
"We picked that location because of all of the rapid growth in that area," said Shawna Brown, spokeswoman for Intermountain.
Nick Christensen, principal in Chrisland, which is brokering the land at 2534, reports discussions with another hotelier at the 2534 development to boot.
"There just seems to be some demand there," Christensen said. "It's a function of the office and retail growth in the area and the increasing demographics of northern Colorado as a whole. With the John Hammons convention center to the north, which you can access by County Road 5, just the location at I25 and U.S. 34 is a great location to capture a lot of room nights."
Bob Benton, a Denver-area hospitality industry consultant and publisher of the Rocky Mountain Lodging Report said that planned hotels, and rumors of other hotels interested in the area, mean more rooms than the area can sustain.
"I think there could be in the short term an over-supply of properties there," he said. He added that over the long-term an area typically is able to absorb the extra rooms.
Many of the properties are building on the hope of the success of the Budweiser Events Center, he said.
"They are being built on the expectation that there will be overflow out of the facility," he said. "Whether they are right or wrong, I'm not sure to be honest."
The prognosticators predicted the growth explosion when the Medical Center of the Rockies was complete, and it's not quite been a year on the books for the new hospital. McWhinney continues its expansion of the Centerra development, and recently announced more expansion planned with its Grand Station development, and which also will have room for a hotel.
The Homewood Suites was just added to the 2534 development, taking just three months for approval, Christensen said. It will be just off of I25 and 34, south of an existing gas station.
"We felt like it was a very good hotel site, given its proximity to interchanges over there," he said.
Uehran, who will start the wave by opening Holiday Inn Express, recently opened the Hampton Inn and Suites in Greeley, placing his hotel smack dab in the middle of a row of five other hotels. His experience there -- with a higher-dollar room -- suggests a new hotel grouping at I25 could survive.
"We've brought some business that wasn't there before with the Hilton travel club members," who stay exclusively at Hilton hotels, Uehran said.
Many hotels have different price-points and types of rooms that attract different travelers. Candlewood, Homewood and Residence Inn, for example, are extended-stay types of suites, that suit high- middle- and lo-end travelers who stay for longer periods. Some are fashioned as if they were regular apartments with kitchens.
"I think it's possible to compete by having a better location or to differentiate with a different type of product," Chrisland said.
Uehran also plans another Candlewood Suites in Greeley. He said he's looking at sites near Culver's off of 35th Avenue and Target in Centerplace. He plans to open that in spring 2009, as well.
Hotels from U.S. 34 to Crossroads Boulevard on Interstate 35
Fairfield Inn, 1710 Foxtrail Drive, 82 rooms
Residence Inn, 450 Mcwhinney Blvd., 103 rooms
Hampton Inn, 5500 Stone Creek Circle, 80 rooms
Best Western Coach House, 5542 E. U.S. 34, 88 rooms
Holiday Inn Express, 6902 E. Crossroads Blvd., 82 rooms (opening in October)
Candlewood Suites, 65 rooms
Homewood Suites, 100 rooms
Embassy Suites Hotel and Convention Center, 263 rooms
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