The reservation is in for Georgia National Fairgrounds hotel

Construction could start soon on a hotel at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter in Perry.

The Georgia Agricultural Exposition Authority at its Jan. 16 meeting approved a proposal from a local developer to build the hotel of at least 100 beds, with a restaurant and bar. The developer pays all of the costs of construction.

Stephen Shimp, executive director of the fairgrounds, said the contract is being reviewed by the state attorney general’s office and then the developer will have to agree to the terms. If that gets done the authority can give final approval at its next meeting on Feb. 13 and then construction can start, Shimp said.

“I can’t say it’s a done deal but it looks good,” he said.

The fairgrounds issued a request for proposals last year to build the hotel, and only got one proposal. That came from Bran Hospitality, which is based in Perry and owns 13 hotels in Georgia. Shimp said the hotel would be a Hilton Garden Inn, but Shrad Amrit, managing member of Bran Hospitality, said the brand is not certain yet.

Amrit, who lives in Perry, said he decided to make a proposal after reading the market study commissioned by the fairgrounds that determined a hotel there would have a 69-percent annual occupancy within 5 years..

“We are excited and we are looking forward to partnering with the state,” Amrit said. “I think it will be a win-win for both.”

The hotels owned by Bran Hospitality include the Hampton Inn in Perry and the Holiday Inn on Harrison Road in Macon.

Amrit said he believes the fairgrounds hotel will ultimately help other hotels in the area because of the economic benefit. The fairgrounds sought to build the hotel, to be attached to 65,000 square-foot Miller-Murphy-Howard building, to create a true conference center. Shimp said the fairgrounds loses out on conference business because many organizations seeking a venue want an attached hotel.

“We think it’s going to complement our facility,” Shimp said. “It’s going to complement the city of Perry and Houston County, and really boost the economy.”

If the deal goes forward, Shimp said the expectation is that the hotel would be completed in time for the fair to be held in October 2020.

He said the deal is patterned after the same arrangement used for hotel development on Jekyll Island, which is owned by the state.

Built in 1990, the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter is a sprawling facility known mostly for the annual Georgia National Fair. The fair draws around 500,000 people, and nearly that many more come to the fairgrounds annually for about 200 events held throughout the year, including livestock shows, dog shows, trade shows and more.

The fairgrounds hired a market-research firm to conduct a study on the potential of a 100-bed hotel on the property. It projected 61 percent annual occupancy in the first year, rising to 69 percent within five years. The average room cost in 2020 is estimated to be $143.

The average occupancy in the market area, which includes 12 hotels, was 68 percent in 2017. Of that, 58 percent comes from business travelers, 31 percent from leisure guests and 11 percent from groups.

Wayne Crenshaw has worked as a journalist since 1990 and has been a reporter for The Telegraph since 2002. He holds a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from Georgia College and is a resident of Warner Robins.