Marion city leaders pleased with hotel boom

Marion city leaders pleased with hotel boom

City reaping benefits of close proximity to Memphis, regional events

Officials in Marion aren’t sure what’s behind the recent hotel building boom in the city. But they sure are glad to see it and hope it continues.

“I’ve been on the council a long time,” said Councilman Jim Spence. “I’ve been getting a lot of phone calls asking about these hotels.”

With two new hotels under construction in Angelo’s Grove — a Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott and a Best Western — Marion is on track to add over 200 new rooms with more possibly on the way.

Marion was experiencing a building boom until the recession in 2008 slowed things to a halt.

But with the economy back on track, Marion and Angelo’s Grove is positioned once again to take advantage of its close proximity to downtown Memphis.

“The hotel industry has taken notice that Marion is closer to downtown Memphis than most parts of Memphis,” said developer Kenny Farrell. “They have decided that Marion has great access to downtown.” Farrell said the success of Bass Pro as a destination, the expansion of St. Jude Children’s Hospital, new downtown housing, and the continuing draw of Beale Street and its world renowned food and music scene have added to the demand for new hotels.

And with Marion being only minutes from downtown with less traffic congestion, hotel developers are looking to take advantage of that easy access and demand for hotel rooms.

“They know what’s going on,” Farrell said. “And they see Angelo’s Grove as the place to be. That’s good for us and it’s good for Marion.”

Marion Mayor Frank Fogleman said officials in Memphis are aware of the new hotels being built in Crittenden County and see it as a benefit to Memphis.

Memphis recently announced that they are investing $175 million to renovate and expand the Cook Convention Center.

“(Sultana Museum project director) Louis Intres and I met with Kevin Kane, executive director of Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, and he thinks the hotel activity in Crittenden County is a good thing,” Fogleman said. “He was positive about the hotel activity. I think that’s great.”

Farrell said Memphis is smart to realize that the hotel activity on the Arkansas side is a benefit.

The more hotel rooms that are in closer proximity to the convention center just makes Memphis more marketable as a convention destination, he said.

“We serve each other very well,” Farrell said. “Kevin is getting 250 more rooms to serve downtown Memphis.

Does he lose some tax

money on hotel rooms?

Yes. But does it make his convention center more marketable to bigger and more conventions? Heck yes.”

Fogleman is optimistic that the new hotels will lead to more development in Marion, particularly more places to eat.

“Just those three will be 250 rooms,” Fogleman said. “And if they are 80 percent filled, that’s 200 people a night that are going to eat a meal somewhere.”

Farrell said he will likely have an announcement for two or three new hotels in the near future that will add another 250 rooms to the development at Angelo’s Grove.

“We’re not going to announce anything in the next couple of weeks,” Farrell said. “But it won’t be a whole lot longer than that when I think we will be able to announce two or three more hotels in Angelo’s Grove. Those other prospects – even if we get just two of the three- will put us over 500 rooms.”

Farrell said once they reach 500 rooms that will be enough for them to build a movie theater and convention center in the development.

“The hotels make it a lot easier,” Farrell said.

“We’ve shifted from retail as our anchors to hotels.

And it’s working. We’ve got 250 rooms under construction and we’re negotiating for another 250.

Ultimately our goal is to have 1,000. And I think it’s possible we announce two more restaurants. We’re as optimistic as we’ve ever been.”

By Mark Randall