Mall at UTC

Hotel rooms are available throughout the area for shoppers heading to the Mall at UTC

UNIVERSITY PARK -- For those traveling to University Park this weekend to get a taste of the new Mall at University Town Center, it's not too late to find a room.

Most of the area hotels -- even those closest to the Mall at UTC -- have availabilities this weekend.

The four hotels nearest the mall -- Courtyard Sarasota University Park/Lakewood Ranch area, Hampton Inn & Suites Sarasota/University Park, Fairfield Inn & Suites Sarasota Lakewood Ranch and Holiday Inn -- all still have rooms available this weekend.

Father north on Interstate 75 and those properties near the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport also are feeling the effects of the mall opening on Thursday.

But at the Courtyard by Marriott Sarasota-Bradenton Airport, the hotel has oversold rooms for the past week and Brie Reynolds, front desk associate, said she expects this to continue into next week.

"We have a lot of the executives from Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue and various vendors from the mall," she said. "We've been affected by the mall. It's been great."

As the mall's grand opening neared, Tom Yorke, manager at Country Inn & Suites by Carlson located off State Road 70, said he saw more people trickling in because of the mall.

"Local people have booked families and friends for the mall," Yorke said. "State Road 70 is one exit away from the mall and we are looking forward to being a great alternative for people coming to the mall."

At the AmericInn Hotel & Suites on Fruitville Road south of the mall, front-desk agent Carolyn Kent said while the hotel is not completely booked, "It's up there."

Kent added that many of mall's workers are staying at the hotel.

"They don't care where they are staying because the company is paying," she said.

In downtown Bradenton, the Courtyard Bradenton Sarasota/Riverfront has no availability this weekend but Robyn Price, the regional director of sales, said the hotel has not seen a direct impact

from the mall because the hotel has other special events this weekend, as well.

"We have had people staying here because its been busy in the area as a whole," she said. "We are getting compression because of the new mall."

The Hampton Inn & Suites Bradenton Downtown Historic District has not seen an increase in weekend business but an increase of corporate business surrounding the mall's opening and the hotel still has rooms available this weekend, said Kelly Ann Dixon, the hotel's director of sales and marketing.

"Because the hotels on University (Parkway) are so full with those training teams, it has dispersed overflow business to us," Dixon said. Stores' management and training teams have been staying at the hotel rather than the average shopper. "We don't really see that people are spending the weekend to shop with the opening."

But when the First International Breast Cancer Dragon Boat Festival comes to Nathan Benderson Park on Oct. 24-26, the room availability will become much more scarce.

Many of the hotels are completely booked next weekend for the 2014 International Breast Cancer Paddlers' Commission Participatory Dragon Boat Festival.

At the Holiday Inn Express and Suites Bradenton East-Lakewood Ranch, the hotel is completely booked next Friday and Saturday, Oct. 24-25, and are "really busy" in the days leading up to the weekend festival, said Kim Hinkle, hotel manager. The hotel has contracts set up with some of the women participating in the festival, Hinkle added.

"It's great," she said. "We are really looking forward to having all the ladies here."

Because there are two Canadian teams staying at the Country Inn & Suites by Carlson next weekend, Yorke's hotel also is at capacity for the next weekend. The Hampton Inn and Suites Sarasota/University Park and the Fairfield Inn and Suites Sarasota Lakewood Ranch also are completely sold out next weekend. And the Holiday Inn on Lake Osprey Drive in Lakewood Ranch only has a few rooms available for the weekend.

The Courtyard Bradenton Sarasota/Riverfront is also completely sold out and they, too, have contracts with three crews participating in the festival.

"We are absolutely tickled pink," Price said. "I think part of it is because they like the waterfront location and to get out of the congestion. These crews were specifically looking for downtown Bradenton locations."

The Hampton Inn & Suites Bradenton Downtown Historic District also has two teams staying at the hotel for the festival.

"They are very excited to participate in the event but are very excited to learn about the location in downtown Bradenton," Dixon said.

Dixon added that the hotel is sold out next weekend.

"I think the area hotels have really benefited," she said. "Many of us Manatee County hotels have benefited from this awesome, awesome event. We are just excited to showcase our downtown area to people that are going to be here from all over the world."

Still looking for a place to stay this weekend? Here are some of the area hotels with rooms available:

AmericInn Hotel & Suites, 5931 Fruitville Road, Sarasota, 941-342-8778

Holiday Inn Express and Suites Bradenton East-Lakewood Ranch, 5464 Lena Road, Lakewood Ranch, 941-776-6084

Country Inn & Suites by Carlson, 5610 Manor Hill Lane, Bradenton, 941-363-4000

Hampton Inn Ellenton/Bradenton, 5810 20th Court E,, Ellenton, 941-721-4000

Hampton Inn & Suites Sarasota/Bradenton Airport, 975 University Parkway, Sarasota, 941-355-8140

Residence Inn Sarasota Bradenton, 1040 University Parkway, Sarasota, 941-358-1468

SpringHill Suites Sarasota Bradenton, 1020 University Parkway, Sarasota, 800-627-7468

Hyatt Place Sarasota Bradenton, 950 University Parkway, Sarasota, 941-554-5800

Courtyard Sarasota University Park/Lakewood Ranch Area, 8305 Tourist Center Drive, Sarasota, 941-360-2626

Hampton Inn & Suites Sarasota/University Park, 8565 Cooper Creek Blvd., University Park, 941-355-8619

Holiday Inn, 6231 Lake Osprey Drive, Sarasota, 941-782-4400

Fairfield Inn & Suites Sarasota Lakewood Ranch, 6105 Exchange Way, Bradenton, 941-552-4000

Hampton Inn & Suites Bradenton Downtown Historic District, 309 10th St. W., Bradenton, 941-746-9400

Claire Aronson, University Parkway/Sarasota reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024 or at Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.