Sunday Biz: What’s Inn a name? February 08, 2009

The look of Horizon Drive will get a change this summer when the venerable Holiday Inn changes names and a new Holiday Inn opens up a few blocks to the west.

The current Holiday Inn, 755 Horizon Drive, is the city’s largest hotel, with 290 rooms. It has been in the Holiday Inn chain for 43 years, but on June 1 it will be a Clarion Inn.

About that time, the new Holiday Inn is expected to open its doors next door to La Quinta Inn and Suites, 2761 Crossroads Blvd.

“Instead of a big, green sign, we’ll have a big, red sign,” said Lynne Sorlye, general manager of the soon-to-be Clarion Inn.

Hotel name changes are nothing new on Horizon Drive. At least two other structures have borne the name of Ramada Inn, with the address of Interstate 70 and Horizon Drive. It’s the one with the faux palm trees.

The Holiday Inn has long withstood the tug and pull of the various chains, but its change came for a variety of reasons on both sides of the relationship, Sorlye said.

The Holiday Inn chain has “had that interest there for a while” in a different site, Sorlye said.

Mike May, owner of the new Holiday Inn, was aware the Grand Junction hotel’s franchise was expiring and that the chain was changing its image from the sprawling, two-story, exterior-corridor buildings with which it had long been associated.

“We look into expiring franchises,” May said. “We said, we’ll build a new one, and our proposal was accepted.”

The new building at the intersection of Compass Drive and Crossroads Boulevard will have 120 rooms, conference space, a lounge, a restaurant and interior corridors, and it will cost $14 million to $15 million to build.

May, also a state legislator from Parker, said he hopes the new Holiday Inn will be open when the existing Holiday Inn changes to a Clarion Inn.

“We don’t want Holiday Inn out of the marketplace even for a few days,” he said.

Choice Hotels, which owns the Clarion Inn chain and, not so coincidentally, a reservations center in Grand Junction, was interested in Sorlye’s hotel, she said.

The call center is a “huge plus,” she said, giving the hotel 600 agents who know the hotel and the town.

In preparation for the changeover, the Holiday Inn is adding a business center, renovating the lobby and front desk and upgrading the corridors and rooms. The hotel also will see some exterior work and landscaping, she said.

“I’m afraid to add it all up,” but the cost likely will approach $1 million, she said.

While Clarion Inns are aimed more toward business travel than leisure travel, the soon-to-be Clarion Inn in Grand Junction will maintain its family-friendly atmosphere with the large, indoor, recreation area.

Horizon Drive has seen a boom in hotel development in recent years, with the construction of two links in the Marriott chain, Courtyard Inn and Residence Inn, but the other lodges on Horizon Drive never felt the pinch, Sorlye said.

“In the next couple of months, we’ll see if the levels come back” to the record rates of 2007 and 2008. Matching them, Sorlye said, will be tough for every hotel in Grand Junction.


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