|By Phillip Ramati, The Macon Telegraph,
Ga.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Sep. 8, 2009 - The big day is finally here.
No more debates about who should build it. No more arguments about which side of the road it should be built on.
After a long, tangled history, the Marriott Macon City Center Hotel opens its doors this afternoon as the city's newest hotel.
City, county and business officials believe that the $37 million hotel not only will provide a boost to tourism, but also will signal new development in east Macon.
"It's very exciting," Macon Mayor Robert Reichert said. "We're going to celebrate it. I think it's the beginning of a new day in Macon."
Pat Topping, senior vice president of the Macon Economic Development Commission, said not only will the hotel attract convention and trade shows, but it also gives a major face-lift to the city's main entrance off Interstate 16.
"I've had the opportunity to tour it, and it's a beautiful facility inside," he said. "It should spur additional development in east Macon, and it's a great entrance to our offices. ... I think they've done a remarkable job."
Atlanta-based hotel developer Noble Investment Group won the right to build the hotel after beating out a proposal from National Ventures for a hotel project on the opposite side of Coliseum Drive.
Former Mayor Jack Ellis supported the National Ventures plan, but most City Council members ultimately chose to go with Noble. The final contract was signed in late 2007, and workers broke ground on the hotel in May 2008.
Today, as part of its deal with the city, Noble assumes control of the Wilson Convention Center and will manage the City Auditorium and the Macon Coliseum on the city's behalf, Reichert said. Current Centreplex employees will move to Noble's payroll.
"I can't say enough good things about the Centreplex staff," Reichert said. "They are now going to work for an enhanced Centreplex, now that it's got a four-star hotel attached to it. ... This is wonderful for the city of Macon and a good opportunity for Noble and Marriott. It's a win for all."
Reichert said Noble's managing the Centreplex -- it's also making improvements to the Coliseum and the convention center -- means the city will no longer have to subsidize the convention center.
"We have been spending a significant amount of money," he said.
LOTS OF AMENITIES
Janice Marshall, president and CEO of the Macon-Bibb County Convention & Visitors Bureau, has noted repeatedly in the past that Macon has been unable to compete with other cities in Georgia in trying to attract certain convention business because the city has lacked a suitable hotel.
The Marriott has eight stories with 220 rooms, including a presidential suite and two smaller suites, General manager David Rosenberg said.
Each room contains either two queen-size or a king-size bed, with large, flat-screen TVs and high-speed Internet access. Hotel guests have access to an exercise room with a variety of exercise machines, an indoor pool and a whirlpool.
The hotel also offers a large, conference-style meeting room, as well as a couple of different ballrooms that can open up to make the rooms larger.
Rosenberg said the hotel bar will offer a variety of micro-brewed beer as well as wine. There's also a coffee bar that serves Starbuck's products.
The Vintage Restaurant will feature a Southern-styled menu.
"We certainly encourage the local community to come and enjoy it," Rosenberg said. "It's very much Southern cuisine with unique twists and creations, and it's moderately priced."
The restaurant also has two private dining rooms, while the lobby offers a business center and a place for people to meet in a more casual setting than a hotel room.
Marriott Rewards customers can also enjoy a private bar area where breakfast is served, he said.
Though Rosenberg and the CVB staff declined to give specifics about conventions already booked at the hotel, Rosenberg said business has been brisk.
"We've got a good number of conventions," he said. "We're getting a very favorable response. We're booking new groups every day."
Topping said the Marriott is a perfect spot for those times when out-of-town groups meet with local business leaders to discuss locating a new company in Bibb County.
"When business prospects come here, we can take them to lunch there or put them up there when they are staying overnight," he said. "I think it's going to be a great asset for us."
That's the same idea the CVB has.
"Groups had been avoiding Macon because there was no hotel adjacent to the Coliseum," Marshall said. "I don't know what else to say except, 'yahoo!' It's making such a difference in how much business we bring in when you have a product that a client wants."
Information from The Telegraph's archives was used in this report.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.
To see more of The Macon Telegraph, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.macon.com
Copyright (c) 2009, The Macon Telegraph, Ga.
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