Sheraton hopes bigger will be better for all
Expansion work is to start next month and end by the spring of 2007
By BRAD WONG
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER
In a competitive world in which cities bid against one another to attract conventions, the number of rooms at a major hotel is just as important as its proximity to downtown restaurants, museums, impressive buildings and places to relax.
With that thinking in mind, the Sheraton Seattle Hotel & Towers yesterday released more detailed plans for a $112 million expansion that would add a 25-story tower and 415 guest rooms to its 1400 Sixth Ave. location, making it -- when finished -- the city's largest-capacity hotel.
The Westin currently is the largest, with 891 rooms and suites, according to its Web site.
Construction on the addition to the current 838-room Sheraton, which is close to the Washington State Convention and Trade Center, is scheduled to start next month.
When finished in spring 2007, it will have 1,253 rooms, according to Terry Botten, hotel general manager.
The new tower will be named the Union Street Tower for its location at the south end of the block from its current Pike Street Tower.
Such a large hotel would ideally spur activity for other tourism-related businesses, such as taxis, restaurants and other hotels, said Botten.
"The pie in Seattle gets bigger with a convention hotel. Everybody shares the pie," he said. "We don't take business away from other hotels, except in other cities."
Botten hopes the expanded hotel will play a key role in attracting convention goers and meeting attendees, especially those from the technology, medical and biotechnology professions.
Also, as Asia continues to play an increasing role in the U.S. economy, he hopes the larger facility and Seattle's proximity to that part of the world will attract new visitors from both sides of the Pacific Ocean.
The idea for an expanded facility began a few years ago, when a Sheraton-backed study found that a large hotel of at least 1,200 guest rooms was needed. Other cities, including San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver and Vancouver, B.C., have those larger hotels, said Botten, adding that Seattle competes with those cities for convention dollars.
As part of the expansion, the hotel is working with Seattle-based Callison Architecture on the new rooms and plans to increase its largest ballroom by 29 percent to 18,000 square feet. Its junior ballroom will more than double to 9,800 square feet.
Bars will be revamped, he said, and the hotel meeting space will grow to 75,000 square feet.
Two national restaurants also will open at the hotel as part of the expansion. While those contracts are still in the works, he said, one would serve Mediterranean food and the other one would primarily offer up steaks. Seattle-based Dilettante Chocolates will run a boutique coffee, chocolate and pastry cafe at the expanded hotel.
While the hotel, which opened in 1982, will not add more parking to its current 440 spaces, Botten believes there are enough garages in the area to absorb additional automobiles.
Each year, the hotel has about 220,000 occupied rooms, or about a 72 percent occupancy rate. Daily room rates range from $150 to $220, depending on the season.
While the hotel released details of the expansion yesterday, Botten said hotels in the convention industry coordinate reservations three to 15 years in advance.
With marketing staff in New York and Washington, D.C., he said, the Sheraton is trying to book the hotel for the 2008 convention season.