Jul. 13--Nearly 500 hotel rooms will be constructed in Clovis in less than three years. According to city officials, five major hotels, including Hilton and Holiday Inn franchises, are planned for key Clovis intersections along Shaw and Clovis avenues.
This is a far cry from today's hotel scene -- 137 rooms that service a population of 100,000.
"We have three hotels and less than 150 rooms," said Mike Dozier, community and economic development director for the city of Clovis. "For a city of 100,000, 150 rooms is not a whole lot."
Construction will begin in the fall on Fairfield Inn and Suites -- a Marriott franchise and the first of the planned hotels. The 77-room, three-story hotel will sit on 1.86 acres near Clovis and Sierra avenues.
Dave Virk, owner of Comfort Suites near Clovis Avenue and Second Street, decided to build Fairfield Inn and Suites after the success of his first hotel. Comfort Suites, which opened in 2005, has an 80-percent occupancy rate and sells out during local events such as the Clovis Rodeo and Rumble to the Summit.
"The first location worked out for us, and we hope the second one will work out even better," Virk said.
Other hotels on the horizon include a 91-room Holiday Inn Express on the southwest corner of Shaw and Helm avenues, a 99-room Hilton Garden Inn on the southeast corner of the same intersection, an 83-room Homewood Suites on the northeast corner of Clovis and Gettysburg avenues and an 83-room Hampton Inn on the same corner. America's Best Value Inn & Suites, the former 24-room Rodeo Lodge on Clovis Avenue just north of Shaw Avenue, is adding 12 rooms and a second story. The historical Clovis Sanitarium on Clovis and Santa Ana avenues is being renovated into Wolfe Manor, a 40-room hotel.
Even though that's 485 additional rooms, city officials aren't concerned about a glut of hotel accommodations. They say the rooms, which are expected to be completed by the end of 2009, are long overdue.
"Being so close to Fresno and having so many hotel rooms in Fresno, people thought the market was saturated," Dozier said. "But when hotels began opening in Clovis, they had excellent occupancy rates."
A 58-room Best Western opened in 1997 along Clovis Avenue north of Fifth Street, and the 55-room Comfort Suites followed in 2005. Owners say the rooms fill quickly with visiting family members, businessmen and participants in Clovis Unified-sponsored music and athletic events.
"The room demand is there," Virk said.
On a recent afternoon, wedding guests, construction workers and Yosemite tourists stayed at his hotel.
Dennis Slattery of Michigan was swimming with his children in Comfort Suites' pool.
"We were staying in Yosemite but wanted to be closer to the airport for our flight tomorrow," he said about why he chose Comfort Suites.
City officials welcome the influx of hotels because the hospitality industry has a high tax rate -- 10 percent of the room rate.
"We're always open to the hospitality industry," Dozier said. "They provide a good tax base for the general fund, which pays for police and fire."
Tourists also spend dollars in nearby restaurants and businesses boosting the overall economy.
Todd Wolfe, a local developer who operated a haunted house in the Clovis Sanitarium, is converting the former hospital into a 40-room hotel.
"It's not going to be just a place to stay in Clovis," Wolfe said. "It's going to be a destination."
Wolfe plans to decorate the 8,000 square feet with vintage wallpaper and furniture. A downstairs restaurant will prepare recipes from antique cookbooks.
"People will have an experience walking in the front door until they leave," Wolfe said.
Peter Patel owns America's Best Value Inn & Suites, the oldest operating hotel in Clovis. The former 24-room Rodeo Lodge was built in the mid-'80s.
Patel bought the building in 2003 and plans to add 12 rooms by fall 2008 because of high occupancy rates.
"We are booked every weekend," he said. "Clovis is getting big and we already have the land, so we are going to build."
Before Best Western and Comfort Suites, the Rodeo Lodge was the only hotel in town.
When the 58-room Best Western opened June 21, 1997, as the first major hotel chain to locate in Clovis, it was a momentous day. Ellie Huston, of Clovis, made sure to be the first guest who checked in. She and her two granddaughters received the first room key and signed the first names in the guest book.
"It was such a big event for Clovis 10 years ago to have a hotel," Huston said. "It was the start of something big because now we have another hotel and several more are planned."
E-mail Gabriel Alexander at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright (c) 2007, The Clovis Independent, Calif. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.