After nearly 30 years of planning and construction, UNC Charlotte's Marriott Hotel hosted its grand opening on Mar. 31. Mike Nelson, the hotel's general manager, talks about how the University started to work with this idea in 2013.
"It didn't really start in earnest until 2013 when they hired a company to do a study about what would be the impact of building a hotel and conference center here. It's been slowly moving forward until then, and they broke ground in 2019," said Nelson.
The hotel took nearly two years to complete due to setbacks caused by COVID-19. "It was a great partnership between the leaders of the University and the leaders of the city as well coming together in a partnership to build the hotel and the conference center together," said Nelson.
The values of the Marriott are standard among the franchise, but Nelson explains the combined effort of the values between Sage Hospitality and the Marriott franchise.
"The nice thing about that is that Sage is its own company, and we have our own set of core values and our ideas behind how do you create a place that people want to go to and not just pass through," said Nelson. "How to enrich people's lives one experience at a time whether that's a guest...a vendor or a customer in the restaurant. The guest is always number one."
Nelson dived deeper into explaining what the art of hosting means for the Marriot hotel.
"Which is being that perfect host for people when they enter our hotel, and we focus on a few things. One, creating a personal connection with people. Getting to know them by name, likes and dislikes ensure that we can personalize the service when they come in. The second part of that is recognizing cues that people have. The easiest one for me is whenever a guest walks up to the lobby and they're looking for a bathroom, there's a look. You know they're looking for the bathroom. When somebody walks in with a water bottle...how do we teach people to recognize it. Either we need to take that water bottle and throw it out or maybe they need a new water bottle. Trying to pay attention to how people are interacting so that we can best take care of them. In the end, trying to draw it all together to be a brilliant host so that people will go out and tell other people how great this hotel is and their friends and family and everyone else who will come back and support it," said Nelson.
When asked what makes the Marriott stand out from other hotels, Nelson talked about the hotel's design. "All of the art in this hotel is original, and almost every piece was done by either a faculty member, a student or alumni," said Nelson.
More so, Nelson explained the partnership working with the College of Arts and Architecture to choose specific pieces on display in the hotel. "Each one of our guest rooms has two pieces of student work. There's a ceramic piece in most of the rooms and there's a print piece in the guest rooms as well," said Nelson.
According to the College of Arts and Architecture website, "Among its distinguishing features is a 490-piece art collection that features original work by faculty, staff, students, and alumni of the UNC Charlotte College of Arts + Architecture."
According to Nelson, the Marriott conference center is open to the public and university for use. The conference center is comprised of approximately 15,000 square feet of meeting space, nine event rooms and windows in all but one of the spaces. Of the nine event rooms, four have direct access to outside.
The hotel can accommodate people within the University or to the Charlotte area. People can come for families visiting campus, move-in/move-out weekend, SOAR, when that is in-person again, homecoming, parent's weekend and graduation.
The Marriott Hotel offers its guests many amenities for being a full-service hotel. Of those, a fitness center, outdoor pool, the Golden Owl restaurant, a market with grab n' go options, and an M Club, which is an exclusive club for the hotel's loyalty members.
"In general, university leadership has looked at this hotel as being sort of a new front door for the University on this side of campus. It's a good representation of the university's continued desire to grow," said Nelson.