Downs hotel nears finish line

Sep 26, 2016

Nearly a year after breaking ground, the first guests of a hotel at Batavia Downs will settle down for track-side views and on-site amenities next month.
Western Regional Off-Track Betting officials confirmed Thursday that construction is on pace to open the 84-room hotel in the second week of October.
The project, owned by a group of investors on land purchased from the public benefit corporation, had originally been targeted for a mid-summer opening — in line with the start of harness racing season. An expected mid-October opening now puts the hotel’s first night roughly in line with two of the racing season’s biggest days — the 14th annual Robert J. Kane Memorial Invitational Pace on Oct. 8, and the annual Columbus Day matinee Oct. 10.
“The fourth floor is almost completed, there’s furniture in most of the rooms, some are fairly operational,” Western OTB CEO Henry Wojtaszek said following a meeting of the WROTB’s board of directors. “(Construction) is working it’s way down the floors for the next three weeks, to be ready Oct. 15.”
Hart Hotels, the Buffalo firm managing the hotel, has room listings on its website available beginning Oct. 22.
Hart Hotels President David Hart said availability will creep forward as the project nears completion, with an expected mix of reservations and walk-ins on the first night and a bigger set of festivities in November.
“It’s a moving target, there’s been a little bit of construction delays, but we want to take advantage of the beautiful fall season and live racing,” Hart said. “Every day that ticks off the calendar is a day lost ... we’re flexible to open when it’s ready.”
The project, which combines the hotel rooms with Batavia Downs’ adjoining facilities for entertainment, dining and events, is ready to go on the Downs’ end, Wojtaszek said.
On the hotel side, Hart Hotels has administrative and support staff in place for the project, with an office inside the Downs providing room for training. It’s a blessing, he said, compared to the trailers that often house operations during hotel construction.
“We’re occupying it right now while most of the construction is in the rooms,” Hart said. “It shortens our window in training and getting prepared to open.”
The Hotel at Batavia Downs will have 84 rooms, but capacity to add 42 more in the future. Wojtaszek and Hart said it boasts amenities and staff that compare favorably in a crowded market.
“It will feel like a big service hotel, with lots of entertainment and food and beverage options,” Hart said. “We believe the Batavia market is starving for that option.”

By JIM KRENCIK, Batavia Daily News