City all abuzz about new hotel

Saturday, Aug. 9, 2008 The buzz this week has been all about the city’s newest hotel. Not a Hilton, not a Ramada, but a Sandman. A Sandman? You mean like those pull-off-the-road-and-get-a-quick-night’s-sleep-before-moving-on type of hotels? Not at all. We’re talking Signature Sandman, a recently launched brand for Northland Properties, the company started by Bob Gaglardi and now run by his son, Tom. Indeed, questions swirl around this new hotel. Is it too small? What will it look like? What amenities will it include?

The fact it is proposed as a 4.5-star hotel will provide reassurance to many people, since the city currently has nothing above a 4-star-rated hotel. Most people associate four stars with a pretty good hotel, and five stars as top of the line.

The 260-room Delta at Sun Peaks, for example, generally regarded as higher end than anything in town, is talked about as being 4.5 stars. Actually, it’s officially a four-diamond hotel, which is a different rating system altogether. Not to mention it’s also rated as a four-green-key facility on the eco-rating system, yet another way of rating hotels.

When you really get into it, hotel ratings systems become more, not less, confusing. Different countries have different systems, different organizations have different criteria. A lot of it depends on which particular features a hotel offers. A pool gives you more rating, but so does an elevator.

Some luxury hotels in some countries tout themselves as going above and beyond the five-star rating, and claim six or even seven stars.

So what is a 4.5-star Sandman Signature hotel? 

As Tom Gaglardi explained it this week, The Sandman Signature line of hotels features conveniences such as concierge and valet service, business centres, health clubs and fitness facilities. The new hotel here will include a Cucumber Cafe “serving fresh and healthy meals throughout the day,” and a Shark Club sports bar.

It will be the fourth Sandman Signature in B.C., including a new one at Vancouver International Airport, and two more under construction, at Prince George and Langley. Other sites include Edmonton and Markham.

A visit to the Sandman Signature Hotels & Resorts website reveals that this new brand of Sandman hotels will be “upscale” and “elegant.”

“By harmonizing our legendary Sandman service and amenities with fresh, contemporary design, our guests will experience a refined, yet unpretentious quality reflected in the details,” says the promo. “Surrounded by the latest conveniences one expects from an upscale hospitality destination, from LCD TV screens in the rooms to concierge and valet service, our total commitment to this ideal is evident and distinctive in the superior experience.”

Somewhat surprisingly, Expedia gives the new “family friendly” Sandman Signature at the Vancouver airport only three stars, but maybe Expedia has yet another rating system of its own.

One traveller wrote on that the Sandman Signature in Toronto was “very upscale” and the rooms “beautifully decorated.” 

While 150 rooms is less than some of the other proposals that have been made for the property over the years, and even fewer than his other local project — a Sandman in Aberdeen at 200 rooms — Gaglardi is of the mind that this is right for the area and for the market.

And there’s a bonus to this — at only four storeys, it will not block the skyline as a tower would. The failed seven-storey 188-room Pacific Hospitality proposal for the waterfront property in front of Interior Savings Centre was opposed by some based on its height — the impact on the river view was a major point of discussion at the public hearing on the rezoning of that land.

At the press conference, Gaglardi offered to provide a tour of the Sandman Signature in Vancouver for anyone who wants one, and I’ve received several generous offers from reporters willing to be sent on a weekend getaway to review the amenities.

I raised the issue of parking because the only reason the City bought the property was to protect much-needed parking for then-Sportmart Place. The plan was always to eventually sell it for a hotel, but to insure that an adequate number of spaces was reserved for public parking as part of any development.

If I may quote the City’s real estate manager, Dave Freeman, at the time: “The parking needs to be there to support Sport Mart Place.”

I’m assured that the parking issue will be raised with Gaglardi by and by.

Will the Sandman Signature Kamloops be everything everybody wants? We’ll have to wait awhile longer, until the land deal is done and the real work on design gets underway. One thing is certain — Gaglardi will have no shortage of advice as to what it should look like and what it should include.

By the way, the City paid $2 million for the land in a deal that closed in August 2005. Given real-estate inflation, it should realize a tidy profit from the sale.

About Mel Rothenburger (9652 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

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