Originally created 09/22/05

Sporting News, Holiday Inn plan restaurants



ST. LOUIS - Sporting News magazine and Holiday Inn Hotels and Resorts plan to develop sports-themed restaurants at all 91 Holiday Inn Select hotels around the country starting early next year, the companies said.

The Sporting News Grill restaurants will be part of what Holiday Inn calls a "Gen-X" concept for franchisees. Terms of the agreement and costs were not disclosed when the joint venture was announced Tuesday.

Sporting News officials say the restaurants will be aimed at younger, action-oriented travelers as well as the local community. Decor will include large covers of St. Louis-based Sporting News, vintage photos from the publication's archives, sports memorabilia and other sports-related items.

ESPN has in recent years opened large sports-themed restaurant-bars, called ESPNZone, in Anaheim, Calif., Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, New York and Washington.

"One thing (patrons) can't get with ESPN is the phenomenal archival assets that Sporting News has to draw on," Sporting News spokesman Drew Kerr said, noting that the magazine once known as the Bible of Baseball dates to 1886.

The companies cited travel industry research indicating young adults will account for more than 349 million room nights in 2005. Holiday Inn said its "brand-within-a-brand" approach aims to reposition the Holiday Inn Select line to meet the needs of "brand-conscious, peer-focused, tech-savvy Gen-X travelers."

A rollout of the Sporting News Grill concept will begin early next year, and all are expected to be open by the end of 2006. In addition to the 91 current hotels, more hotels are planned and each new one will also have a Sporting News Grill, Kerr said.

Atlanta-based Holiday Inn has nearly 1,000 hotels and resorts in the U.S. and 1,400 worldwide.