JOLIET – Joliet’s largest hotel took on a new name last week.
The longtime Holiday Inn Hotel & Conference Center Joliet, 411 S. Larkin Ave., is now the Clarion Hotel & Convention Center Joliet.
It’s a notable moment, since the hotel had been a Holiday Inn since 1971. But Holiday Inn plans to put its brand on a new hotel and conference center slated to open in 2015 at the Houlbolt Road interchange with Interstate 80.
When that facility opens, it is likely to be major competition for the newly named Clarion Hotel & Conference Center, which also enjoys a location off an I-80 interchange.
Co-owner John Seo said his new 20-year partnership with Clarion is an opportunity to focus on the facility’s strengths – its 200 rooms, large banquet facility and restaurant.
“This hotel is the largest in Joliet,” Seo said. “We’re about two or three times larger than most other hotels in the area.”
Debra Freund, general manager for Clarion Joliet, said the hotel’s convention services are unique in the area and will help it stay competitive.
“There’s not any other full service banquet facilities with choice in the area,” Freund said, referring to the hotel’s restaurant and bar.
The 14,000-square-foot convention center can cater to up to 700 people, Freund said. The restaurant, 80 North, serves up to 120 customers.
In years past, the center focused primarily on conventions and seminars, especially one- and two-day educational programs, Freund said.
But weddings and quinceañeras – celebrations for Hispanic girls’ 15th birthdays – have become a growing trend, she said. The banquet facility gets a lot of bookings on Fridays and Saturdays in the summer for these types of events.
The center now hosts a bridal expo and fashion show each March, Freund said, which generates a lot of business for the facility.
“We’ve been getting heavily into the bridal market,” Freund said.
For years, the hotel served as the convention site for the Joliet Hawaiian Music Festival. In recent years, the venue has been used by the Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Will County Center for Economic Development for events. The Old Timers Baseball Association of Will County holds fundraisers there.
“We love to have the Old Timers in January,” Seo said.
Beyond the change in signage, the hotel essentially will remain the same.
Seo and partner John Rhee purchased the hotel 16 years ago. The two men added the banquet room and restaurant in 2005.
The hotel’s exterior was renovated last November, Seo said. The hotel also upgraded TV sets in all 200 rooms to 42-inch LCDs at that time, he said.
Meanwhile, plans for the new convention center with two hotels at I-80 and Houbolt Road are moving forward.
The complex will include a 120-room Holiday Inn and an 80-room Candlewood Suites connected to a conference center that would include a restaurant and fitness center. The complex is being developed by Hospitality Guru Group of Aurora.
A second Holiday Inn in Minooka, is being developed by Marquette Properties Inc., which expects to begin construction late this summer. That hotel would include 83 rooms.
But Seo is confident about his niche in the local market because of his hotel’s focus on larger events and the subsequent need to serve more customers,.
“Holiday Inn is moving towards smaller facilities,” Seo said. “[Our facility] doesn’t really fit with Holiday Inn anymore.”