Football weekends already booked as Hyatt Place nears opening
CHAMPAIGN — The Hyatt Place hotel in downtown Champaign is "a couple months" away from opening, its general manager said.
But the new facility is already seeing high demand for University of Illinois football weekends next fall.
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The hotel's website shows rooms still available for the Sept. 20 game against Texas State and the Nov. 22 game against Penn State. But it indicated that rooms are "not available" the nights following the Oct. 4 Purdue game, the Oct. 25 homecoming game against Minnesota and the Nov. 15 Dad's Day game against Iowa — either because rooms are sold out or the night is not yet open for reservations.
Neither are rooms available the night after the Sept. 6 game against Western Kentucky, according to the website.
Victor Patterson, the hotel's general manager, said the Hyatt Place has seen high demand for home football games and special events next fall, but would not give specifics.
He said the 145-room hotel at the southwest corner of Neil and Church streets is expected to open this spring, but wouldn't specify a date other than in "a couple months."
The hotel is taking group bookings for June 1 and afterward and individual reservations for Sept. 1 and afterward, though the latter date could move up, Patterson said.
He noted two exceptions: Arrangements have been made with two groups — one in connection with Ebertfest in late April and one related to a wedding before June 1 — and the hotel is staying in contact with those groups about progress toward opening.
Otherwise, the hotel is taking "inquiries" about individual rooms for dates before Sept. 1 but making "no promises," he said.
Last August, developer Hans Grotelueschen said he expected the Hyatt Place to open in February of this year.
But weather has been a big hindrance, said Patterson, noting that stucco work still needs to be done on the building's south side.
On the north side, masonry work remains to be done once the buck hoist being used by construction workers is removed.
Meanwhile, construction inside the hotel is proceeding, with the main floor and lower level of the nine-story building taking shape the fastest.
In the lobby, tile has been laid, the ceiling has been installed and wood paneling is going up. Evidence can be seen of what will one day be the front desk, the Gallery Kitchen, the Grab n' Go Cafe and the business center.
On the lower level, the swimming pool has been filled with water, and work is progressing on the meeting space, which can be divided into four rooms. Washers and dryers for the housekeeping staff have been installed.
The second through fourth floors are devoted to parking ramps, which won't be striped for parking places until the hotel is just ready to open, Patterson said.
Guest rooms will be on the fifth through ninth floors. They include 80 rooms with king beds, 60 rooms with two queen beds and five suites with king beds.
Ordinarily, the top corporate rate at the hotel will be in the $159- to $169-a-night range. But on high-demand weekends, the room charge can be in the $299 to $349 range, Patterson said.
For example, the hotel's website shows that on Nov. 22 — the night of the Penn State game — the average daily rate is $284, with king suites available for $384.
While the building is being completed, the hotel's staff is taking shape.
Patterson, 37, of Monticello was hired last September by First Hospitality Group, the Rosemont-based company operating the hotel. He previously worked 20 years for Drury Inns, the last 10 as general manager of the Drury Inn in Champaign.
Caitlyn Mooney, formerly sales manager/events specialist at the Hilton Garden Inn, has been hired as director of sales, and Stephanie Skelton is the sales manager. Assistant managers and a head engineer have also been hired.
The hotel began hiring hourly employees in February and continues to take applications. Hourly positions include front-desk clerks, housekeepers, breakfast hosts, maintenance people and a night auditor.
Altogether, there will be 45 to 50 employees, Patterson said, with hourly workers being paid $9.50 an hour and up, depending on experience.
Hotel guests and the general public will be able to order meals in the Gallery area near the front desk. The restaurant will serve soups, salads, sandwiches, pizza and flatbreads, as well as an all-day breakfast.
Starbucks specialty beverages, as well as soft drinks, beer, wine and cocktails will be available at the hotel's Coffee to Cocktails Bar.
Plus, all guests get a free breakfast, including hot items such as breakfast sandwiches, pancakes, waffles and french toast.