Paper Valley renovations to begin this month, plan to be complete by expo opening

July 20, 2017
PureColor

APPLETON – Renovations at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel are set to start this month in preparation for the opening of the Fox Cities Exhibition Center.

Inner Circle Investments, which purchased the hotel in 2015, announced Thursday that they have closed on a multi-million dollar refinancing deal to renovate the hotel, in addition to financing for other hotel properties it owns.

The renovations for Radisson include updates to the lobby and conference rooms, improvements to the exterior facade, renovations to the guest rooms and other improvements. The renovations were required as part of the exhibition center management agreement between the city and Inner Circle that was approved in 2015.

“I think the timing is really good because they should be finished about the time we’re ready to open,” Mayor Tim Hanna told reporters on Thursday at the exhibition center construction site.

The renovations and the financing to complete them have been a consistent concern since last fall for some stakeholders who were wondering whether it would be completed in time for the exhibition center. Some renovations, like for the escalator, were completed this spring.

“I’m cautiously optimistic after seeing the announcement,” said Chuck Kuen, Kimberly’s village president and member of the exhibition center advisory committee, on Thursday. “With Appleton taking the lead in expressing their unwavering confidence in Inner Circle, my position as a member of the advisory committee is one of guarded optimism based on false starts to date.”

In November 2016, committee members approved the more expensive exhibition center design, for a cost of $31 million, but added contingencies that Inner Circle shared a renovation schedule with the committee and renovated the hotel escalator by Jan. 31, 2017. Members also had an opportunity to extend the deadline in early January but chose to keep it.

But at the advisory committee’s March meeting, members removed the deadline and contingencies on a 7-2 vote. At that meeting, members consistently said they hoped financing would come through as soon as possible.

“I will share concerns because I’m dealing with people who are trying to book this,” said Pam Seidl, executive director of the Fox Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau, during the March meeting. “I’m trying to sell this. My staff on a daily basis, more so than anyone else in the room, is trying to sell this and the hotel (renovations) are essential if you want to meet the numbers and revenue projections for room tax to pay (this off).”

On Thursday, Kuen said he is hopeful the work will be completed on time, but didn’t say whether he thinks it is possible or not.

Representatives from Inner Circle and city officials have said that Inner Circle has done large renovations before at the pace of “a floor a week,” with the help of a construction company owned by Inner Circle.

“That’s their concern, that’s from their perspective,” Hanna said Thursday, about those concerned about the timing of the renovations. “… We’ve told them over and over again, ‘These guys know what they’re doing.’

“I get it, they’ve been worried about ‘Is this going to get done? Are they going to do what they say they’re going to do?’ Well today, we heard, yeah, they are.”

Calls to Inner Circle were not immediately returned, but a news release from the city touting the renovations included a statement from Joe Gillespie, the CEO of Inner Circle.

“Inner Circle is maintaining its commitment to the Fox Cities communities to provide a high-quality, luxury brand lodging experience for the future attendees of events at the Fox Cities Exhibition Center. We will satisfy the highest expectations our customers have come to expect,” Gillespie said in the statement.

The hotel will also pay for a portion of the walkway that will connect the hotel to the exhibition center, as required in the management agreement signed in 2015.

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