Business & Oilsands(Archives)
Poised for Success: The Best Western Plus Sawridge Suites
The adage in real estate is that it’s all about location, and if there is any other industry where this same sentiment best applies it may be the hotel business, where location is often the key to success. Given that parameter, the brand new Best Western Plus Sawridge Suites situated in the TaigaNova Eco-Industrial Park in Fort McMurray seems poised for success based in part on a location that takes advantage of close proximity to several oil sands sites north of the urban centre.
The official opening on July 10, 2015 of Fort McMurray’s newest hotel saw the addition of 151 rooms, all equipped as suites, to the local hotel scene. From the moment upon entering the spacious, open-concept lobby one cannot help but note the earthy, woody tones, even extending to the occasional tree stump serving as a resting place for newspapers. The hotel was designed to fit into the eco-industrial park vision, from the colours of the lobby to the technology designed to reduce the environmental footprint and maximize cost efficiencies. For every kind of visitor, from business to pleasure, the aim of the hotel is to offer a unique “home away from home” experience.
“The rooms are perfect for long-term or short-term stays,” says General Manager Paul Jones. “Each room is fully equipped with a kitchenette, and the corner suites have laundry facilities, while the other rooms have access to centralized laundry rooms.”
The hotel is also close to Fort McMurray’s most populated and fastest-growing neighbourhoods in Timberlea, encouraging those visiting family to consider a stay at the new hotel, while also attracting those working at the oil sands sites.
The spacious and well-equipped fitness centre and steam rooms provide a welcome respite for guests after long days spent working. The hotel lobby also boasts what may be best described as a “hotel convenience corner on steroids”, as The Outpost (as it was dubbed in a contest won by local attorney and Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo Councillor Al Vinni) stocks far more than the usual candy bars and potato chips.
“The sandwiches and other items at The Outpost are made fresh right here in our kitchen,” says Jones. “Open 24 hours, it allows guests to grab a healthy meal at their convenience.”
The Outpost is only a taste of the food options available at the Best Western Plus Sawridge Suites, as the hotel restaurant, Creations, delivers not only a well-known local chef but a novel concept as well.
Executive Chef of Creations, Ken Bowie, has developed a strong local foodie following during his stint at the Sawridge Inn and Conference Centre in Gregoire, and at Creations Bowie continues to expand his culinary repertoire while shepherding a unique idea.
“The buffet here is a bit unusual,” says Jones. “You pay by weight, so you can load up with what you want, weigh your plate and you pay based on that weight. We also have a grab and go option, so those staying in the hotel can take the food back to their suites to enjoy, or people working in the eco-industrial park can come here and purchase an entire meal to take home for supper.”
This must be an attractive option at the bustling TaigaNova Park, as the businesses in this area seem to be booming and what was a relatively new eco-industrial park just a short time ago seems well-populated with recognized and respected local business names. This emerging business opportunity did not escape the management of the Best Western and Sawridge chains, and they have developed an office tower next door to the new hotel. The Sawridge Centre, scheduled to open this fall, will house even more office space in the industrial park, and create a perfect opportunity for businesses needing office space plus a convenient accommodation option for visiting employees.
The suites themselves are designed for convenience, with everything from doors opened by scanning your hotel card to a doorbell/light system that indicates if you desire privacy or wish your room cleaned, doing away with the pesky “do not disturb” signs that are easily misplaced or damaged. A seamless WiFi system allows guests to move to different areas of the hotel without losing their connection, while underground parking provides a welcome option during both the warmest and coldest months of the year.
“We are attentive to details and the needs of our guests,” says Jones, who has 30 years of experience in the hotel industry. “We look forward to the future and the opportunity to welcome guests, visitors and the community to the region’s newest hotel,” he says with well-earned pride in Fort McMurray’s newest, and perhaps most unique, hotel experience.
Photography by Greg Halinda