BRADENTON -- Bradenton residents will get their opportunity to tour the renovated Hampton Inn & Suites downtown Saturday.
The former Manatee River Hotel, 309 10th St. W., underwent a $21 million renovation this year and opened Nov. 19 with much fanfare transforming the 87-year-old hotel from a chippy artifact to a glossy monument honoring the city's history.
"We encourage the people who live here to come down and take a look and meet the staff and see how beautiful the property is," said Kelly Ann Dixon, director of sales and marketing for the hotel.
The community open house from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, includes tours. People can grab a seat at the breakfast table and look inside the rooms.
The hotel boasts 119 rooms, meeting rooms, a heated saltwater pool, a colonnade event space that retains much of the historic charm while offering modern conveniences such as WiFi, flat-screen HDTVs and office space in the rooms.
Folks have a chance to win a free stay, too.
Guests are encouraged to bring donations for the Women's Resource Center of Manatee, and they will be entered to win a weekend getaway gift certificate, which will be raffled off at 12:30 p.m. The center helps women facing difficult circumstances and helps them with life and employment transitions.
The center needs shampoo, soap, body lotion, MCAT bus passes, grocery store gift cards and toiletries.
So far, the hotel is doing well, Dixon said, running about 90 percent capacity during the Bradenton Blues Fest, and already surpassing its goal for December.
Now the challenge is making sure
people outside of the area know about the hotel.
"The community awareness is phenomenal, the community support is phenomenal, but the world isn't aware and that's my challenge," Dixon said. "From Longboat to even Punta Gorda, they all know we're here and ready to go, but the world doesn't."
The hotel is working with U.S. Soccer U18 Men's National program at IMG Academy, Dixon said, to be one of the school's preferred hotels.
Wedding bookings also continue to be popular at the hotel.
"We're turning out to be wedding central in spring, summer and fall," Dixon said. Most of that business is thanks to the weddings handled through the Palmetto Riverside Bed and Breakfast, where the bride and groom tend to stay, and the rest of the wedding guests can stay at the Hampton, she said.
Dave Gustafson, director of the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority, praised the hotel for its efforts and early success, selling out on several weeknights, even without events, but also acknowledged that the hotel has not pulled business away from Riverwalk's first hotel, Courtyard by Marriott. The Courtyard is still selling out and seeing great business, Gustafson said.
"I think it's a demonstration to the Marriott and demonstration to the community that the community wants a higher level of hospitality just like we want a higher level of events downtown," he said.
Charles Schelle, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.