Calls already coming for rooms at downtown Champaign hotel

Calls already coming for rooms at downtown Champaign hotel

CHAMPAIGN — Hans Grotelueschen is already fielding calls from people who want to book rooms and events at the Hyatt Place hotel in downtown Champaign.

The nine-story hotel, being constructed at the southwest corner of Church and Neil streets, isn't expected to open until February 2014.

But already people want to lock in rooms for Ebertfest and graduation weekend at the University of Illinois. Plus, others want to book wedding receptions and parties there.

Grotelueschen is manager of YG Hotel Investors, the limited liability company that owns the 145-room hotel. He said the hotel will probably start taking reservations in two months, but in the meantime he's keeping an informal list of those wanting to book business.

When completed, the building will have parking on its second through fourth floors, guest rooms on the fifth through ninth floors and a lobby and cafe on the main floor. A pool, fitness center and banquet rooms accommodating up to 285 will be on the lower level.

Grotelueschen said the location is right for a hotel because visitors want to stay close to the food and entertainment venues in downtown Champaign.

"People want to be downtown," he said. "There are 36 restaurants and bars within two blocks of the hotel, with an occupancy of almost 6,000 patrons, counting outdoor seating."

Downtown Champaign is an attraction in itself, he added.

"When a business owner brings a guest to town and wants to show off what's unique, often the business owner brings them downtown," he said. "Why wouldn't they want to stay there, too?"

Motorists passing through town on the interstates will most likely stay at the 30 or so hotels near the highways, he said.

But "people interested in staying in the most interesting location in Champaign will stay at our hotel," he predicted.

Rates at the Hyatt Place will vary depending on demand, Grotelueschen said. When the hotel is "super-busy" — for example, during Ebertfest or graduation weekend — rates will likely be "upwards of $200 a night," he said. But "on a Tuesday night in January," the single-occupancy rate may be as low as $115.

Hyatt Place is considered a "select-service" hotel, rather than a "full-service" hotel — along the lines of Hilton Garden Inn or Courtyard by Marriott, Grotelueschen said. As such, Hyatt Place doesn't provide room service, a full sit-down menu restaurant or spa services.

The Champaign hotel will have 80 rooms with a king bed, 60 rooms with two queen beds and five suites with king beds. Rooms will generally be about 350 square feet.

The banquet center will have four rooms that can be expanded into one large space. Banquet service will be provided primarily by outside caterers, since the hotel's kitchen is designed to serve the cafe.

The hotel's management company, Rosemont-based First Hospitality Group, has been interviewing candidates for general manager. Grotelueschen said he expects a general manager on board in 30 to 60 days.

After that, the hotel will begin hiring the rest of the staff, which is expected to include about 35 full-time employees.

First Hospitality manages about 50 hotels in 10 Midwestern states, including several hotels in university communities such as Bloomington, Ind.; South Bend, Ind.; and Madison, Wis., Grotelueschen said.

Its portfolio includes the Country Inn & Suites in Champaign, as well as Hyatt Place properties in Des Moines, Iowa, and South Bend/Mishawaka, Ind.

Hyatt Place, a brand of Chicago-based Hyatt Hotels Corp., has 177 hotels in the United States and overseas, according to the company's website. Overseas locations include Costa Rica, Chile, the Netherlands, Armenia and India.

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