Those who showed up for Tuesday’s official opening of the Marriott Macon City Center Hotel said they were extremely pleased with what they saw.
Former Macon Mayor Jack Ellis walked into the hotel for the first time since its completion and said it matched his expectations.
“It’s exactly the vision we had,” said Ellis, taking in the 220-room, $37 million structure just across the Ocmulgee River from downtown. “We needed to build this hotel. We needed it in this market. This is a great day for the city of Macon, that’s for sure. It’s $10 million of the city’s money that was well spent.”
At Tuesday’s opening, officials said the controversy that surrounded the hotel — with competing plans from two different investment groups that divided City Council with the Ellis administration — is no longer a concern.
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Macon City Councilwoman Nancy White, who voted against the hotel contract because she didn’t like the terms it offered, said it was time for all the controversy that surrounded the hotel’s construction to be left in the past.
“I have watched the progress from my office, and the most exciting months were in the summer, when it was like ‘Extreme Makeover’ with an army of workers building it,” said White, who added that she planned to have dinner there with her son Tuesday evening. “It’s very contemporary, very modern. ... (With the controversy), we’ve put it all behind us. We’re dealing with what is, not with what was.”
At a reception for dignitaries and officials, hotel general manager David Rosenberg presented a large gift basket and 10,000 Marriott points to Brad Sims, who was the first guest to make reservations at the hotel. Sims, the director of internal relations for the Technical College System of Georgia, donated the points to the Central Georgia Technical College Foundation.
Sims said he booked a room at the hotel because there is a large technical college meeting in October, and Sims wanted to experience the facility first-hand to make sure it can adequately accommodate the meeting.
“This facility has what I need,” he said. “It’s beautiful. It’s something Macon has needed for a long time. It’s going to do a lot for the city.”
Rosenberg said the hotel already is doing well with reservations. He noted that by today, the hotel will be about 50 percent full.
“We’ve had great reception and a lot of last-minute reservations coming in,” he said. “We’ve had a number of walk-up (bookings) already.”
Bibb County Commission Chairman Sam Hart and Macon City Councilman Rick Hutto both said the hotel should spur business development and growth in east Macon.
Hutto said that development plans for the empty property across the street, which is where some wanted the hotel built, are already in the works and would be “complementary” to the hotel, the Macon Coliseum and the Wilson Convention Center.
Hart said the hotel should pay dividends for the city and the county for years to come.
“It’s going to be an attraction for out-of-towners, and the name ‘Marriott’ should attract guests as well,” Hart said. “Hopefully, it will be the impetus for future development in this area.”
Construction for the hotel began in May 2008. The group that won the bid to build the hotel, Atlanta-based Noble Investment Group, also officially assumed control of the Centreplex, which includes the Coliseum, the Wilson Convention Center and City Auditorium, on Tuesday. “It’s been a very smooth transition,” said Chuck Powell, a vice president with Noble. “The team at the Centreplex has come together beautifully with our team. They are very enthusiastic, and we are happy to have them.”
Officials said the hotel will have a grand opening celebration Nov. 11.
Information from The Telegraph’s archives was used in this report.