Spokane North Notes
A weekly bulletin of the Spokane-North Rotary Club
May 18, 2015
Editors: Chuck Rehberg and Sandy Fink
Photo: Lenore Romney
Program Coordinator: Jim Minkler

          Fund-raising “crunch time”: Sell tickets, line up a restaurant or two donation package, and get in the mood for the club’s Hawaiian Night fund raising event.  All proceeds benefit needy students at Holmes Elementary School.  The June 4 event is at The Backyard, 1811 W. Broadway in West Central. 
          Since the club does not meet May 25 (Memorial Day) or June 1 (because of the June 4 event), reservations should be forwarded to Nancy Hanson (attendees can pay at the door), corporate donations to Jodi Harland; and, restaurant voucher deals to Steve Boharski.

          The event goal is for each club member to sell or use six tickets.

          The major auction item is a week-long “Hawaiian Dream Vacation” on Maui’s Sugar Beach.  Melody Farance, who has stayed there, said the condo, which sleeps four, is “owned by Spokane people.”  The site, just a few yards from the beach, she said, “is awesome.”  The package includes a $1,000 travel vouchure for airfare or rental car.

Will The Grand be Worthy of its name?

          How do you define “grand” in Spokane?

          If you are The Davenport Grand hotel, you provide 716 guest rooms, including 40 suites, 63,177 square feet of meeting space, which includes an 18,000-square-foot ballroom, a 940-car garage and a skywalk to the convention center and performing arts auditorium.

          Matthew Jensen, director of sales and marketing, talked about Spokane’s new hotel at the May 18 luncheon.  The Grand is scheduled to open June 17.  Jensen said his visit was his fourth to a Rotary Club.  “I’m on the circuit,” he added.

          Some 100 groups have already booked rooms, Jensen said, including a 1,300-person convention starting July 7, which reserved space just two weeks ago.  “The consistent message,” Jensen said, “is that we need a bigger hotel connected to the Convention Center.”  Thus, The Grand idea was developed.

           As a break-in special, The Grand is offering “Spokane residents only” a $99-a-night room rate from June 17-25.  Or you could try the top-floor President’s Suite for $2,500 a night.

          Jensen shared the hotel history of Walt and Karen Worthy.  “Walt Worthy has square feet” was the kitschy motto of his office buildings, famous for reflective-glass panels, on North Washington, East Francis and in the Spokane Valley.

           In 2000, when the venerable landmark Davenport Hotel faced demolition –“did we really need another parking lot?” Jensen asked – Walt and Karen bought the hotel and did a costly, two-year renovation.

          The timing was right, Jensen said, because the Convention Center had just been expanded and the Ridpath Hotel had closed.

          Needing more rooms, the Davenport Tower, with its quaint African motif, was built in 2007 and the Worthys bought the boutique Hotel Lusso across Sprague from the Davenport.

          The Davenport has 284 rooms, the Tower 328 and the Lusso, 48 for a total of 660 rooms. The Grand has more rooms than those other three properties combined, which raises several questions, including, with Spokane’s limited number of direct flights, how can all those convention-goers get here?

          “We are working on that,” Jensen said.  Southwest Airlines may add another direct flight from Chicago and other carriers are being made aware of the increased traffic demand, he said.

          A key element of The Grand’s success will be its ties to Marriott’s “Autograph Collection” brand.  That’s a group of independent hotels tied in to Marriott’s international sales program, which means the 30-member Davenport sales force joins forces with a 3,000-member Marriott sales team.

          “We franchised with Marriott; we didn’t sell out,” Jensen stressed.  “We needed this to capture new business.  It’s not our intent to run anybody else out of business.  We want the tide to rise,” he added.
          Asked about the sterile, rather boxy design of The Grand, Jensen replied, “There’s only so much you can do with pre-cast concrete.”  The pre-cast sections, with windows already installed, facilitated quick construction. 

          “All the rooms are concrete, and extremely quiet,” Jensen said.  His slides showed “a contemporary design” with bright floral colors of carpet (like Wynn properties in Las Vegas) and what he called “George Jetson chairs” in bright orange-red.  Rooms will have the signature Davenport beds and 55-inch 4K LED Hi-definition TVs, Jensen said.

          Restaurants include the dinners-only Table 13 -- named after a Walt Worthy favorite number and favorite Florida dining spot -- The Grand Restaurant and Lounge, and a Grand Terrace Bar, which services a 5,800-square-foot terrace with views to Riverfront Park.

          “We will have a Starbucks, because that’s what hotels do now,” Jensen added.

          What The Grand will not have, at least yet, is a spa, and the hotel is “pet-free,” he said.

          Because The Grand replaced a large parking lot, public parking was a must-have part of the package.  Jensen said 600 of the 940 spaces will be made available to the public.  Parkers will exit only on Washington, but pre-paid parking will be provided and several lanes can be opened to exit traffic after Opera House and Convention Center events, he said.

          The Grand now employs 300 and will increase staffing to 500 eventually, Jensen said.  He adds: “These are not minimum-wage jobs.  Wait staff, bartenders and others who routinely get tips will average about $23 an hour, he said, adding, “That’s a very livable wage in Spokane.”