More than a decade after Sudbury's President Hotel found new life as a Days Inn, the downtown accommodation is hitting its stride, serving a niche market for small to medium-sized conferences.
With one floor dedicated to business travellers and seven meeting rooms available, the 103-room hotel has spent the last decade metamorphosing into a modern, comfortable facility, complete with its own barber shop, which has been part of the hotel since its inception.
When new ownership took over about 14 years ago, the Elm Street hotel was operating 66 rooms, one floor was reserved for monthly rentals, and one floor remained closed, said general manager Nadia Pilon. Slowly, but surely, the management brought the facility back to its former glory.
“When the current owners purchased it, they started with the windows, roof, and heating and cooling system,” Pilon said. “Those are the little items that the guest doesn't see, but that's where your big dollars are spent. A lot of money went into that, and then we started with the individual guest rooms and worked on one floor at a time.”
Today, the hotel offers four suites: two with a king-sized bed and an adjoining living room, which sees use as a business suite, and two with two beds, a fridge, microwave, toaster, and kettle, which are popular with families and sports teams.
“Our sixth floor is what we call our business floor, and on that floor we just have rooms with one king bed, so they're slightly larger rooms, and they have a couple of chairs and a seating area,” Pilon said. “We have upgraded amenities there, and a complimentary bottle of water and breakfast for corporate clients. That floor is quite popular.”
All the rooms have undergone upgrades over the last year, including new linens, duvets, mattresses and flat-screen TVs. Those changes complement other offerings such as the barber shop, a pool, and a small gym.
Last year, the hotel decided to pursue more conferences and conventions following an overwhelming number of inquiries about facilities that could accommodate crowds of 100 to 125 people. Other Sudbury hotels were handily servicing the market for 250 people and up, but the closure of a number of Sudbury-area halls had created a void for smaller facilities.
“We were missing out on that business, and a lot of potential room business from it, because we just didn't have the meeting facilities to accommodate it,” Pilon said.
Renovations over the last year have changed that. The Worthington Room is comprised of a 3,741-square-foot ballroom, which can be divided into two spaces, and two adjacent rooms, with 2,236 square feet and 1,500 square feet, respectively. The arrangement gives clients a larger space for group sessions and the flexibility for breakout rooms.
Smaller boardrooms, with 960 square feet and 237 square feet, are also available, and the Wine Garden, formerly the hotel’s restaurant, is now an ideal space for small luncheons or dinner parties.
Owned and operated independently by Sudbury-based partners Jason Heaton and Dave Temmerman, Hardrock 42 Gastropub, located in the lower level of the hotel, provides the catering and in-house meals for guests and corporate clients. Pilon said the hotel is pleased to be working with and supporting local entrepreneurs.
“The catering is seeing an increase in business,” Pilon said. “They're out buying linens, they're out buying dishes and they're out buying all the supplies that they need, so it's good for the city. People are spending money.”
The decision to go after more business clientele has proved prescient. After a slight dip in traffic during the economic downturn, it’s booming once again.
Pilon estimates 60 per cent of business travellers hail from Northern Ontario, with a concentration in mining and government. But as work ramps up at Vale’s operations, she’s seeing more interest from Quebec and southern Ontario, as contractors and suppliers make their way north.
“It died off for a little bit, and now we're starting to see it pick up, quite a bit, actually, in the last month,” she said. “It’s a lot of new business for us, so that's great.”
The conference and convention crowd tends to be local as well, and Pilon’s seen a good mix of traffic from the training, government, health and safety, and film sectors come through her doors. The hotel is now targetting government and sports events.
Despite the work done to date, the transformation of the Days Inn Sudbury is ongoing. The wireless Internet is currently being upgraded to accommodate travellers with tablets, smartphones and laptops in tow, and the roof will soon be replaced again. Just before Christmas, work began on the exterior of the building, and a bright, new steel facade will be applied over the next four to five months.
“It’s going to be a completely new look,” Pilon said. “We're excited about that.”