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Hilton Inn opens for business

Katie Kohler | Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Hilton Garden Inn opened for business Thursday, three weeks later than expected. The hotel, which began construction in August 2006, was originally set to open in time for the Notre Dame home opener against Georgia Tech.

The hotel, located on Douglas Road, has 100 rooms, many of which were occupied this weekend.

“Business was strong this week and we were extremely happy with the turnout,” General Manager Jim Benak said. “We didn’t sell out, but we didn’t really plan to either. We had large crowds for dinner after the game and many people visiting who hadn’t been back to campus in a while.”

The Hilton began taking reservations about two and a half week ago, Benak said.

The hotel, which is less than a block away from the Inn at Saint Mary’s, has several amenities, such as a full service restaurant. Bistro 933, an upscale casual restaurant, is an “American culinary road trip,” Benak said. “The menu features American cuisine from different parts of the country.”

Junior Emily Tarnacki dined at the restaurant following the football game Saturday.

“The food was good and it was a nice, relaxing atmosphere,” she said. “The staff was very inviting and friendly.”

The new hotel also offers room service, adjustable mattresses, wireless Internet and LCD televisions. The guests at the Inn at Saint Mary’s will be able to benefit from the full service restaurant, as the Hilton will extend its room service catering to the Inn as well.

Typical room rates range from $129 to $149, increasing to nearly $400 during home football weekends. The Hilton offers three types of rooms: standard, Jacuzzi suites and junior king suites, all of which have a refrigerator and a microwave.

The next step for the hotel will be completion of the Gillespie Conference and Special Events Center, which is scheduled to open Feb. 1. The conference center is located on the northeast side of the hotel and will be shared with the Inn at Saint Mary’s, Benak said.

The center will seat up to 750 and will be available for dinners, banquets, weddings and other special events.

“We already have 15 weddings planned for next summer and a banquet reservation,” Benak said.

The conference center also contains an exterior garden which is over 4,000 sq. ft.

The Holladay Corporation proposed construction of the hotel in 2005 to the Sisters of the Holy Cross.

“Many people stopped by this weekend just to see it,” Benak said. “We are very pleased with the guest comments. The weekend went very smoothly, besides the game, of course.”

The Hilton, which was developed by the same owners as the Inn, is different, Benak said. “The Inn does a phenomenal job, but we have something they don’t have. We’re part of a national franchise and that national affiliation helps us give rewards for frequent guests,” Benak said.

The opening ceremonies included a blessing by Sister Geraldine Hoyler of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, a speech by Frank Perri of the development team and a flag-raising by the Indiana National Guard.

The hotel is taking reservations for the remainder of the football season.