AUSTINTOWN - Hotel operators planning new development for Austintown say a planned racino nearby is important but far from the only reason these two new extended-stay hotels are planning construction at the bustling Interstate 80 interchange.
"In the hospitality business, you don't want to make such a large investment based on one factor," said David Kovass, president of Meander Hospitality Management which operates several hotels in the area. The company is planning an 87-room, four-story Home2 Suites by Hilton off Interstate Boulevard, according to information provided by the Austintown zoning department.
Kovass said he does not expect to break ground for the extended-stay facility until next spring, and hopes to be in operation by late spring of 2015.
"The racetrack was something that was considered and evaluated, but it wasn't the main reason nor the only reason," Kovass said.
Rather, it was the area's business travelers that may have had a bigger impact on the decision to build new hotels in the already crowded I-80 / state Route 46 interchange area.
"What you have in the area is a nice mix of manufacturing, oil and gas, healthcare and education," Kovass said. Coupled with the anticipated racetrack, sporting events, travel teams and tour buses, the interchange just may be the perfect location.
The sentiments were echoed by John Moses, chief operating officer for HiFive Development Services in southwest Ohio, which is planning a sooner groundbreaking for Candlewood Suites, another extended stay facility to be built on Cerni Drive off state Route 46 near the interchange.
Candlewood will offer 77-extended stay rooms in a four-story building. The company expects to begin site preparation in coming weeks and will likely host a ceremonial groundbreaking before the end of June. Drawings have been approved by township zoning, including a variance granted April 18 allowing for a 59-foot roof and a 135-foot high-rise highway sign. HiFive Development expects to open within a year.
"The main generators were already in place," Moses said last week of the motivation to bring the new hotel to the area. "The racino will provide additional demand for the hotel."
HiFive, which also operates the relatively new Holiday Inn Express at the interchange, said guests at that hotel helped them to realize the demand for facilities catering to longer stays.
"What we have discovered with the opening of the Holiday Inn Express is there's a specific need for the longer term," Moses said.
Moses also cited demand from the business traveler, including the growing gas drilling business.
"There's definite demand from the oil and gas industry. There's more and more depth to the demand," Moses said. "But it's more than just a good feeling. It's more than just the success of the Holiday Inn Express. You always want to have confirmation."
The company's research, he said, does provide the confirmation they needed to move forward with the project.
Still, the thoroughbred racetrack and video lottery terminal being built by Pari-mutuel giant Penn National Gaming just a half-mile away certainly didn't hurt.
"It is exciting to have that new type of business here," Kovass said. He noted that his company already operates a hotel in Shelbyville, Ind., about four miles from Indiana Downs, that state's largest racetrack and casino. "We do see a tremendous pickup in business during the race season."
Expectations for a winter race season in Austintown also would mean good news for the hotel and restaurant industry, which Kovass said often drops off with cold weather and the holiday shopping season. A final decision on next year's race schedule is expected to come from the Ohio Race Commission late this year.
Both hotel operators estimated that average stays at the facilities will reach a week or more. Both hotels will offer full kitchens, particularly aimed at business travelers or new residents moving to the area not yet prepared to commit to a longterm lease or home purchase.
Neither operator expressed concern about over-saturating the market with extended stay rooms. Only two other extended-stay facilities exist or are planned for the Mahoning Valley, a Residence Inn by Marriott in Boardman and another under construction at Eastwood Mall in Niles.
"It's a market segment that is not fully served in our area."