KINGSPORT — When construction started 13 months ago on a new two-wing expansion of the MeadowView Marriott hotel, company officials had an ambitious goal in mind — to complete the project by the 2009 August NASCAR race in Bristol.
On Tuesday, MeadowView officials marked the opening of the new expansion — beating their goal by just a few days before the NASCAR race this weekend.
“We’ve got people checking in tomorrow — we just made the deadline,” said MeadowView General Manager Andy King.
A grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony were held Tuesday for the hotel expansion and renovation, a $15 million project funded by Eastman Chemical Co., which owns the hotel portion of MeadowView.
The project included the construction of 110 rooms and the renovation of the existing 195 rooms. Ten of the new rooms are executive king rooms.
“Eastman is so proud to be part of MeadowView,” Eastman Vice President and Treasurer Mary Hall told a crowd gathered for the grand opening. “This property has been a catalyst for development.”
MeadowView opened in 1996 and has since pumped millions of dollars into the local economy by bringing in thousands of tourists each year. Plus it has generated more than $60 million in new private-sector investments in that portion of town. Those investments in turn have generated more than $1.16 million in new property taxes each year.
King said the additional hotel rooms will help MeadowView attract even more business in the future.
“We can now target much larger association, corporate, religious and affinity groups that we have not been able to accommodate in the past,” he said, adding MeadowView’s sales team plans to focus on markets such as Lexington, Ky., Asheville, N.C., and Chattanooga to compete for business that would not consider MeadowView in the past because of the number of hotel rooms available.
Overall, the addition is expected to pump another $5 million a year in revenue into the Kingsport economy.
Julie Bennett, 2009 chair of the Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce, said MeadowView “is the perfect example of what wonderful things can happen when public and private sectors work together.”
While Eastman owns the hotel portion of the property, the city of Kingsport owns the conference and convention center side.
Following Eastman’s lead for expansion, the city is planning to construct a 30,000-square-foot Executive Conference Center on its side of the property. The expansion will feature a 5,000-square-foot ballroom, two U-shaped amphitheaters, two executive boardrooms, and a conference room. The two-story addition will cost about $14 million.
“This is truly a partnership,” said Mayor Dennis Phillips. “It’s a win-win for the city.”
He said before MeadowView was built, the property was assessed at $2.5 million. Today, the value has jumped to more than $80 million.
“That’s an additional $650,000 a year to city coffers,” Phillips said. “This community owes you (MeadowView) a great debt of gratitude.”
MeadowView’s staff was also commended for its work to make visitors comfortable during the construction process. King noted that during typical construction at hotels, guest satisfaction scores drop 20 to 30 points.
However, guest satisfaction scores at MeadowView never fell below the Marriott average. Indeed, the hotel was recognized last year as the No. 1 Marriott in the world in terms of overall customer satisfaction.
And for the third time in four years, MeadowView won the “Top Hotel Operations of Excellence Award” from Steritch International. MeadowView is the only Marriott property to have won the award more than once.
“This is the face our visitors see every time they come to town,” Bennett said. “We are truly blessed as a community to have the Marriott here.”
Throughout the construction process, MeadowView touted the slogan, “Soaring to new heights with two new wings.” At Tuesday’s grand opening, King said the hotel and convention center have adopted a new mascot that fits in with that slogan. He introduced “Waginsi,” a large red-tailed hawk brought to the grand opening from Bays Mountain Park.
“Waginsi means ‘Always meant to be here.’ And I think MeadowView was always meant to be here,” King said.
He said Eastman has donated $1,000 to Bays Mountain to support Waginsi for the upcoming year.
In addition, King noted that MeadowView and the Cattails Golf Course have received certification from the National Audubon Society as a bird sanctuary, showing their support of wildlife in the vicinity.
“As we’re growing and expanding, it’s important to show that we’re trying to maintain the beautiful wildlife that’s out here,” King said.
For more information on MeadowView visit www.meadowviewresort.com.