April 07, 2004

A headquarters hotel in Pittsburgh might be paid for with the occupancy tax revenue it generates after it opens. Bills were sent March 25 and April 2 to the finance committees of the Pennsylvania Senate and House of Representatives, respectively, to create a way to finance the property without raising taxes, assuming a final $34 million in capital is found to complete the funding package. "This is more of a proactive rather than a reactive piece of legislation," said Ken Varhola, chief of staff for State Senator Sean Logan. "Once the convention center is funded, we hope the legislation will be in place."

The 1,017-room Fairmont Acapulco Princess has completed $2 million in meeting space renovations. The 17 function rooms comprising the property's 34,000 square feet of meeting space are now fortified with noise-reducing wood and vinyl paneling, along with high-speed Internet access and state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems. The Fairmont's function space has been aesthetically revamped as well, with new Mexican decor in each room.

In December, Sandals Resorts will combine two Jamaican properties, the Sandals Ocho Rios and the Grande Sport Villa Golf Resort & Spa, into the 522-room Sandals Grande Ocho Rios Beach & Villa Resort. To prepare for the merge, the Grande Sport, currently in the company's Beaches portfolio, will close May 1 for a $10 million renovation.

Today marks the opening of the Normandy Farm Inn & Conference Center in Blue Bell, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia. After a $30 million infusion, the former dairy has 30,000 square feet of meeting space and sits beside the Blue Bell Country Club, which offers an 18-hole golf course and tennis facilities. Cooking classes with chef Jim Coleman, the executive chef on property, also are available. In June, the property will open a 15-room luxury inn, and ground will be broken on a 120-room hotel by year's end.

Hilton International and EIH Limited, in a new strategic partnership, have reflagged seven Trident hotels throughout India as Trident Hiltons. The rebranded properties are in Agra, Bhubaneshwar, Chennai, Cochin, Gurgaon, Jaipur and Udaipur. In addition, the former Oberoi Towers in Mumbai has been reflagged the Hilton Towers. Scheduled to open in 2007 is the 400-room Trident Hilton Mumbai.

The 366-room Binion's Horseshoe Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, home of the World Series of Poker, reopened on April 1 under its new owner, Las Vegas-based Harrah's Entertainment Inc., which bought the bankrupt property in January. The hotel has approximately 10,000 square feet of function space; this year's poker championships begin on April 22.

Connecticut's 390-room Hartford Hilton has been signed over to a new owner, with substantial renovations scheduled to begin immediately, in a $28.5 million deal thatwas finalized last week. The new ownership -- comprising Connecticut developer Glenn A. Jette and affiliates of Michigan-based Slavik Inc., Connecticut-based Waterford Group LLC and Connecticut-based Albemarle Hotel Associates -- will expand the hotel's meeting space to almost 14,000 square feet. Plans also include fully refurbished guest rooms and public space, and the property is expected to reopen by the end of the year.