|By Sheryl Jean, The Dallas Morning
NewsMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Mar. 24, 2008 - It wasn't too long ago that visitors to Frisco had two choices: an economy hotel or a more expensive resort and golf course.
That's not the case anymore.
By year's end, Frisco will add nearly 600 hotel rooms, to total 1,500. Plans call for adding nearly 800 rooms in 2009 and 2010. The new hotels offer something for everyone -- from midpriced to upscale to extended-stay options.
So far this year, a 119-room Sheraton Stonebriar and 117-room Homewood Suites by Hilton have opened.
Later this year, a 109-room Comfort Suites, 105-room Hilton Garden Inn and 136-room Aloft Hotel plan to open.
And Atlantic Hotels Ltd. plans to invest about $50 million in four hotels in the next two years. Frisco's hotel boom comes as a recession could force families and companies to curb travel.
But city officials and hotel managers aren't too concerned, given that demand outpaces supply and future growth. Some existing hotels regularly sell out and have to turn people away, especially during busy weekdays.
"We'll be able to capture more of the business that we haven't been able to because of the low room number," said Marla Roe, executive director of the Frisco Convention & Visitors Bureau. She estimates that new hotels will double the city's hotel tax revenue.
Visitors will see higher room rates. Hotels may see an initial dip in occupancy rates as new rooms open, but managers say they think the market can support the expansion.
Frisco's average hotel occupancy was 71.8 percent last year, compared with 72 percent in 2006 and 69 percent in 2005. The average room rate was $164 last year, up from $147 in 2006. A 3 percent increase is projected for this year.
Frisco has been one of the state's fastest-growing cities, with an abundance of land and now the development of the State Highway 121 toll road. Its population has nearly quadrupled to about 100,000 in the last decade.
Frisco officials aren't exactly sure how many visitors the city gets, though it's more than 19 million people each year, with residents and others visiting Stonebriar Centre mall, Dr Pepper Star Center and Pizza Hut ballpark.
For example, visitors in town this week for a soccer tournament will stay more than 9,000 hotel-room nights, said Jim Gandy, president of the Frisco Economic Development Corp.
"The great impact of what you can't track is the spin-off to the community -- to businesses, restaurants, sports venues and shopping," Ms. Roe said. The city plans to conduct an economic impact study to track spending, she said.
One possible glitch is the weakening economy, which could delay or cancel hotel plans.
"Even with the new hotels, we haven't seen a drop in our occupancy, but if the economy turns ... that's the iffy question," said Rebecca Light, general manager of 4-year-old Hampton Inn & Suites. The hotel's occupancy is around 85 percent, she said.
If needed, Carrollton-based Atlantic Hotels could postpone next year's building plans for two hotels in North Frisco, said Sonny Babu, director of operations. But no matter what, later this year it will start building a 144-room Crowne Plaza and 193-room Holiday Inn Express along Highway 121, he said.
"Frisco is one of the main legs of the Collin County boom that is under way," Mr. Babu said. "We feel good about Frisco because it has a balance of entertainment, business, parks, retail and residential."
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