Hotel rooms have become a valuable commodity in Greater Waco, with Baylor University’s new 45,000-seat McLane Stadium a sellout waiting to happen, an expanded convention center attracting larger gatherings and downtown Waco enjoying a renaissance.
Help is on the way, as three extended-stay hotels that will add about 300 rooms to the local inventory have reached various stages of completion. One, located in upscale Legends Crossing near State Highway 6 and Interstate 35, should welcome guests by the halfway point of the 2015 football season. Two others will open by January and spring of 2016, respectively.
Valued at $10 million, the 93-room TownPlace Suites by Marriott is the closest to completion and becomes the third lodging property in the Crossing, joining Holiday Inn Express & Suites and Homewood Suites Hilton.
“I think we will have it finished in 60 to 75 days,” said Ralph Oltman, president of McLenco, a local construction company.
At that rate, it should be throwing out the welcome mat about the time Baylor hosts West Virginia on Oct. 17 or Iowa State on Oct. 24. And it should have all the kinks worked out by the time the Oklahoma Sooners arrive Nov. 14.
“It’s going to be very nice, because Marriott won’t let you build any dogs,” Oltman said. Features will include a swimming pool, one- and two-bedroom suites with kitchens and areas in which to transact business. Oltman said he just ordered $300,000 worth of cabinetry for the site.
At South Valley Mills Drive and the I-35 frontage road, Pride Construction has laid the groundwork for a four-story, 105-room Home2 Suites by Hilton, valued at $8 million. It likely will host an unveiling in spring of next year.
The property is taking space near the new Gander Mountain outdoors store, Starbucks, Potbelly Sandwich Works and a Bubba’s 33 sports bar. A Zoe’s Kitchen, which will have a Mediterranean-style menu, is going up on the same site.
“We started work in March, but we’ve had a few delays due to the expansive soils that we had to rework several times to meet specifications,” said Russ Jackson, superintendent for the project, of McNeil Commercial Real Estate in Germantown, Tennessee.
Jackson said Home2 Suites “is on the thrifty side of Hilton,” and the Waco version will feature kitchens in each suite, an exercise room, a business center and a pool.
“It’s going to be really nice, as Hilton properties tend to be,” Jackson said.
On the east side of I-35 at New Road, wooden framing has gone up for a four-story, 99-room Candlewood Suites extended-stay property with a $6 million price tag. Partners Roger and Rajesh Patel are putting it there.
“We’re confident it will open in January,” Roger Patel said in a phone interview.
He said Waco’s Candlewood will target business travelers lured by the area’s explosive industrial and commercial development, as well as fans attending games or concerts at the Ferrell Center or McLane Stadium.
Candlewood Suites properties typically feature fully equipped kitchens, laundry service and work space with high-speed Internet.
All three new properties in development are extended-stay establishments, meaning guests often will stay longer than overnight.
“That’s reflective of a shift in the market over the last few years,” said Ralph Oltman, who is erecting TownPlace at Legends Crossing. “What developers are typically building are places for the family that has come to visit.”
He said the trend is playing out elsewhere, noting that a Home2 Suites by Hilton has gone up near the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, while another extended-stay property has arrived in the oil-patch community of Midland.
Question of saturation
Noting the arrival of three additional hotels, Oltman addressed the question of whether Waco is becoming saturated.
“You know you have too many hotel rooms when people start filing bankruptcy,” he said. “I don’t know of any such filings, so I don’t guess we have too many. Waco is exploding, and these are in response to that.”
Teresa Thomas, general manager of Hampton Inn & Suites Waco South and secretary of Waco Hotel and Lodging Association, echoed Oltman, saying, “If we could add three stories to this hotel, we probably could keep them filled.”
“Speaking as someone from Oklahoma City, where there is a hotel on every corner, I think there is enough business to go around,” Thomas said. “There are several events throughout the year that sell us out and every other hotel in the city.”
She said Waco benefits from diversity and is not reliant on a single industry or entity.
“Waco is a great city, and it’s not just Baylor that keeps us going,” she said.
Liz Taylor, executive director of the Waco Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the area needs these rooms.
“Hotel demand has continued to increase as more development of all types has occurred,” she said in an email. “I think it is a combination of several things — McLane Stadium and downtown development and growth, for example.”
Baylor continues to attract major sports events, including this year’s NCAA national championship tennis tournament, which, combined with other events Waco was hosting, pushed hotel demand to Temple and Hillsboro.
“There is so much competition in the travel business now, and our destination must continue to develop as our competition does, so that we remain relevant,” Taylor said.
“Waco is an amazing destination, and our product mix for tourism continues to grow and improve. As this happens, we must continue to improve, and hotels and other lodging are an important part of that.”
Taylor noted that Waco lost the Clarion Hotel near downtown and I-35 when a Dallas-area development company demolished it to create room for a new CVS Pharmacy and an In-N-Out Burger restaurant now under construction.
- T - TownPlace Suites
- H - Home2 Suites
- C - Candlewood Suites