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Marriott sale may boost bookings

The company buying the Courtyard by Marriott next to the Blair County Convention Center is promising to make more lodging available for convention center guests, a commitment that should put the center in a position to attract more business.

Convention center leaders have repeatedly spoken about the inability to attract larger groups to the convention center because of insufficient on-site lodging.

While Courtyard by Marriott has housed convention center guests over the years, it has a history of restricting how many rooms in its 105-room facility can be set aside for the convention center groups.

At one point, the Courtyard by Marriott’s practice was to set aside 30 rooms for use by convention center guests. Facility personnel later advised the Mirror it was offering 50 to 80 rooms, depending on dates requested.

Triple Crown Corp. of Harrisburg, the company acquiring the Courtyard by Marriott via an online real estate auction, will sign an amended land lease with the authority as part of the hotel sale transaction.

The authority, at a special meeting Friday, reviewed and approved the land lease requiring Triple Crown Corp. to reserve as many as 80 rooms a night for future convention center guests, except for weekends with Penn State home football games and graduation.

Another portion of the land lease reduces the monthly base rent, paid by the hotel owner to the authority, to $5,500 from $8,600. It also defers the first year’s rent — totaling $66,000 — for payment between the third and fifth years of ownership.

“The hard part of this deal is that it takes $66,000 out of our bottom line,” authority member Dan Taddei said.

But the loss can be made up by attracting more bookings, authority Chairman Richard Karcher said.

When hotel’s occupancy exceeds 70 percent, the amended land lease indicates that the convention center authority receives a $5 per room fee in addition to base rent.

Karcher said Friday that he is excited about the developing opportunities.

He and authority member Jamie Van Buren met recently with the Triple Crown Corp. representatives and exchanged ideas while working on the amended land lease.

“I believe we will have a partnership with them,” Karcher said.

“I was ecstatic that they picked up the phone and called us,” Van Buren said.

Triple Crown CEO Mark DiSanto said his company is also pleased about the developing effort.

“I have to give the authority a lot of credit because they were very, very responsive to us, and very willing to work with us,” DiSanto said. “And we obviously think there should be a great synergy from working together.”

Triple Crown Corp. is buying the Courtyard by Marriott through Ten-X, a commercial real estate auction site that advertised the property several weeks ago and took bids. While the company’s website indicates that the property has been sold, it does not identify the seller.

DiSanto said he expects the sale to be closed in May. Subsequently, the Hospital­ity Asset Management Co. of State College will take over management of the property and initiate an improvement plan.

“This property will need about $2.5 million in improvements to maintain the Marriott flag and we’re going to do that,” DiSanto said. “We’re going to be undertaking a full-scale upgrade to the common areas, to the entry, to the rooms and some exterior improvements, too.

“In addition to a better look, we want to have technology that people want, so they won’t have to reach around the bed to find a find a computer jack,” he said.

Convention Center CEO Barry Kumpf said the sales staff will welcome the chance to book larger groups that can consider the convention center because more on-site lodging is available.

“We have the history and documentation of groups that have walked away, so our sales staff is ready to reach out to them and others,” Kumpf said. “They’ll leave no stone unturned.”

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.

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