Originally created 02/05/06

Radisson undergoes changes to become Marriott

The front desk clerks at the Radisson Riverfront Hotel greet callers with, "It's a great day at the Radisson Riverfront Hotel of Augusta."

That'll change come Wednesday.

Then they'll be saying "It's a great day at the Augusta Marriott Hotel & Suites."

That's when the new branding of the market's most upscale hotel is official, said Darryl C. Leech, the vice president of Augusta Riverfront LLC, the owner of the hotel and conference center complex.

Both the Radisson and the adjacent Country Suites Riverwalk Augusta will combine under the Marriott name.

"We've moved up in brand," Mr. Leech said. "Marriott is a larger, more broad-based brand."

Mr. Leech said he is expecting both an increase in occupancy and in room rates.

"Some pricing will go up, but it is in conjunction with the fact we've put millions of dollars to uplift it and update it," said Mr. Leech, who declined to comment on specific rate increases.

With the new name comes new amenities such as a "concierge floor" that includes an exclusive lounge for guests with a continental breakfast, an honor bar and computer work stations.

All 372 rooms in the hotel complex will have upgrades in their bedding to meet Marriott standards, Mr. Leech said.

"It has a duvet cover, heavier thread count linens and deluxe pillow packages," Mr. Leech said.

Improvements also were made last month at Augustino's, the hotel's Italian restaurant. Wood-fired pizza ovens were added and the kitchen has been expanded, Mr. Leech said.

The Radisson and Country Suites properties have been affiliated with Radisson franchisor Carlson Companies Inc. since the hotels opened in 1992 and 2001, respectively.

Marriott operates 2,800 hotels worldwide, compared with Carlson's 945. Marriott brands include other hotels such as the Courtyard by Marriott and Fairfield Inn, but its flagship Marriott Hotel Brand is in a category with other upscale chains such as Hilton, Hyatt and Westin.

The name change is a good move for the hotel, said Barry White, the executive director of the Augusta Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau.

"It's a high-quality product and I think the Marriott name would better represent that," he said.

Augusta Riverfront LLC is a subsidiary of Azalea Development Corp., which is headed by William S. Morris III, the chairman and CEO of Morris Communications Co., the parent company of The Augusta Chronicle.

Reach Tony Lombardo at (706) 823-3227 or tony.lombardo@augustachronicle.com.


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