New name, new look, new hotel

Owners believe remodeled Ski Town Inn will succeed as Hampton Inn & Suites

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— Roland Balloun is convinced there is room for a new property in Steamboat's crowded hotel/motel resort condominium market. Balloun is the general manager of the new Hampton Inn & Suites at 725 S. Lincoln Ave.

"We think we're filling a gap between the Sheraton and the Holiday Inn," Balloun said. "We think there's a huge $100-a-night gap. We're shooting for the upscale family market. We think there's a huge need there."

Balloun said the room rate he and his partners in the Hampton Inn are shooting for ranges from $130 to $229 a night. For that rate, guests of the hotel will receive a full-size refrigerator and microwave accompanying a wet bar with imported granite countertops. They'll also enjoy a comfortable sitting room, Balloun said.

Technically, the Hampton Inn & Suites, not far from the stoplight at Hilltop Parkway on U.S. 40, is not a new lodging property; it originally opened as the Ski Town Inn & Suites on Dec. 24, 1997, but closed on the last day of the ski season the following April. The original hotel developers, Richcam Ventures, defaulted on their construction loans and the hotel was placed into receivership. Although it has had a handful of commercial tenants in the intervening years, the hotel never reopened.

Ultimately, third parties, who were owed money by Richcam, filed for foreclosure, opening the way for original lender Vectra Bank Denver (Vectra Bank Steamboat was not involved) to acquire the property.

Vectra Bank sold the 68-unit hotel to the new owners in June.

Balloun said the primary buyers were principles in a limited liability company based in Texas. They include his brother, Mike Balloun, and Dennis Tuttle. Roland Balloun said although he is not a part of the LLC, he does have an ownership stake in the hotel.

Tuttle is a national roofing contractor based in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. The men have been involved in commercial construction for 15 years, building banks, assisted living facilities and hotels on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Balloun said Tuttle and his brother built a home in Steamboat and it turned into something of a family business retreat. During the course of their visits to Steamboat, they kept an eye on the former Ski Town Inn.

"We looked at this building for three to four years," Balloun said. "Mike and Dennis did the research and saw an opportunity. The driving factor behind our plan is that we will give value through an upscale suite."

Balloun did not say how much they paid for the hotel.

Vectra Bank listed it for $4.3 million, less than the original construction loan.

Although the hotel was full of new furniture and fixtures, Balloun said much of it has been discarded in the course of a thorough remodel and refurbishing.

Balloun says candidly, that the original floor plan and configuration of the rooms puzzled him and his partners.

There are many rooms that sleep anywhere from six to 10 people, but don't afford the privacy of bedroom doors.

The new owners have been addressing many of those quirks in the process of the remodel. They are also replacing all of the television sets with 27-inch models, replacing all the beds with larger ones.

They are even tearing out the original bathroom vanities, replacing them with marble countertops.

The rooms are getting all new lamps, new art on the walls, and new sleeper/sofas.

The in-room wet bars are also getting the marble treatment and being re-trimmed with maple.

"We have put a massive amount of money into this property above and beyond the purchase," Balloun said.

The large high-ceilinged room at the north end of the hotel that formerly housed a restaurant and bar is being converted into a large lobby.

It will include an informal dining area for the breakfast that is served to guests.

Balloun said the Hampton chain prides itself on offering an expanded breakfast and despises the term "continental breakfast." They won't serve bacon and eggs, but the cold breakfast station will offer a large selection of healthy breakfast foods and fruit, he said.

The new property will rely heavily on a nationwide toll free reservations network to build momentum. Hampton Inn & Suites is a marques of the Hilton chain and the national reservation system aggressively cross markets all of its properties.

"It gives us a combination of resources from which to feed," Balloun said.

"The reservations system is seamless to travel agents. They can tie up a block of rooms and we won't even know it."

Although Balloun is optimistic about opening shortly after Thanksgiving, he wants to ramp up slowly.

Assuming he gets a certificate of occupancy from the local building department and meets the Hilton chain's rigorous inspection, he would be happy to begin with a 10-percent occupancy rate, Balloun said.

For that reason, he has not yet begun booking ski season reservations. Balloun plans to employ about 25 people this winter.

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