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Big changes for city hotel: Radisson getting new brand, major renovation

New Hampshire Union Leader

May 20. 2017 6:59PM
General Manager Kim Roy poses in the new assembly area of the Four Rivers Ballroom, part of a multi-year renovation of the Radisson in downtown Manchester. The carpet is designed to mimic a flowing river. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER - The Radisson Hotel Manchester not only is getting a face-lift but a new affiliation. The hotel will become a Doubletree by Hilton next year, and its owner plans to pour millions of dollars into renovations.

"It's all about rewards today, loyalty points," General Manager Kim Roy said last week. "They have a very strong loyalty program."

The largest convention hotel north of Boston will undergo around $6.6 million in improvements. Guest rooms will see new bedding, window treatments, carpet, lighting and artwork by the beginning of next year, she said. A new lobby also is planned.

"It's time," said Roy, who has worked at the hotel since its 1983 opening. "We need to stay competitive in the marketplace."

The 12-story hotel, which features 248 rooms and 65,000 square feet of event space, recently completed a $2.2 million makeover of its ballroom space, now dubbed the Four Rivers Ballroom.

"That was a floor-to-ceiling renovation," Roy said, including new river-themed carpeting and glass doors. A new bar doubles as a registration desk.

Last year, the hotel's ballroom was used 288 days, the Armory 260 days and the Expo 238 days. "There are not many dark days at all," Roy said.

Rewards programs and attractive hotels are important to lure customers, according to Bobby Bowers, an executive with STR, a data and analytics specialist in Tennessee that tracks the hotel industry.

"It's so competitive you have to have a good fresh-quality product or customers are just not going to stay there," Bowers said.

Rewards programs are favored by "generally the best customers" who make up a large percentage of nights booked and money spent at hotels, he said.

The hotel, at the corner of Elm and Granite streets, changed affiliation from Holiday Inn to Radisson in 2004.

As the conversion takes place, more competition is coming to town.

A planned six-story Residence Inn by Marriott is expected to open next year a half-block away, between Central Street and Lake Avenue near the SNHU Arena. Another hotel, Tru by Hilton, has been proposed for the nearby Millyard.

"I can't stop (the competition), so hopefully, we all just do a great job and bring more people downtown," Roy said.

JPA Management of Braintree, Mass., has owned the hotel since it opened. Roy started as an administrative assistant/personnel in 1983 and became general manager in 2004.

"The ownership is wonderful to work for," she said. "It's all about the people, and it starts with them."

A focal point during the New Hampshire primary, the downtown landmark hosts candidates, reporters and political TV shows.

NBC, CBS and ABC already have reserved space for 2020, said Maurine Bowman, the hotel's director of sales and marketing.

But it also hosts local events ranging from awards ceremonies to reptile shows to baseball dinners. The hotel can handle up to 3,000 people for a single event.

Bowman recalled a day when the hotel hosted a gun show, a wedding, President George W. Bush and singer Ozzy Osbourne. Someone even snapped a picture of Bush and Osbourne together.

Bob Molloy, owner of Molloy Sound and Video Contractors in Manchester, figures he has provided sound for hundreds of events at the hotel.

"We've done a little bit of everything there," Molloy said.

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