Why is the Tru by Hilton brand a fit for downtown Springfield?
It’s going to really be a very contemporary design for millennials. They’ve just started about two years ago, and the first one was in Oklahoma City. We went to a meeting that Hilton had, and they had the new rollout. There were 300 Tru franchises sold at that meeting. It’s the kind of hotel that Hilton has always wanted to do. Now, they have a great reason to do it because of the number of millennials that are looking for this type of a location. I really did feel that Springfield needed this, and I think it’s really going to be a hit with students and downtown. It’s about a $9.5 million hotel. A good way to figure (development cost) is $100,000 a room. We have partners: Terry Reynolds, who is C. Arch Bay’s granddaughter, who owned all of the houses along where the Tru is going to be built, and Bart Tacke, [her son]. Yulia Whittington, she was our general manager of Bear Village from the very beginning, … she’s going to go to the Hilton school and then she will take over as the general manager.
What does today’s business traveler and family traveler want?
They want something clean. They want something that there’s no problem checking in or going right to your room, and no checkout makes it easy when they can just leave. They’re looking for comfort in the main floor, where they can go out of their room and sit and visit with other people. Of course, food is still very important.
When Tru opens Sept. 3 and Hotel Vandivort, Phase II, opens in August, there will be 150 new hotel rooms downtown. Is the demand there?
I’ve taken a real interest in how well the Vandivort has done. It was picked two or three years ago as the No. 1 boutique hotel in the country out of 530 boutique hotels. As it’s growing and getting more rooms, I just assume they will fill because they’ve got such a good reputation and it’s such a good hotel. We will be price sensitive to other properties. People that don’t want to spend a lot of money can stay at a Tru and get a good experience. Room rates will be around $105.
Tell me about the Staybridge Suites you are planning in town.
That’s going to be on the corner of National and Battlefield right across from OakStar [Bank]. It will have 112 rooms, with the same rule of thumb of $100,000 per room ... even more because it has a real nice area in the back, which will have a fireplace and a lounge. This will be ready about June of 2020. Then we’re going to build one in Columbia, Missouri. It will start sometime in the fall, also, and it will be another Tru.
When did you build your first hotel? And what’s been your focus since then?
In 1985, the Econo Lodge. My brother [Randy] was the main person on that. My dad [Bill] and I, with my brother’s leadership, built five properties. Those were in the ‘80s and ‘90s. We were building Bear Village and that took a long time, and it took me a long time to buy all the homes that were in that area. I started buying those in 1985. We were finally able to get around 36 homes in that square of Grand and Madison, Roanoke and Kimbrough.
What do you see as the draws of tourism in Springfield?
Of course, Johnny [Morris’] aquarium. I also know that the head of tourism in Arkansas, the head of tourism in Bentonville, head of tourism in Eureka Springs, Tracy [Kimberlin] here and Branson and Johnny, they are all coming together to advertise this area as the Ozarks. They’ll do national advertising. It’s just amazing to see the people with New York and California license plates coming through our area.
Bryan Magers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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