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Holiday Inn Express opens as first phase of Torgerson Properties expansion is done

General Manager David Feist hands over a room key Sunday at the front desk of the new Holiday Inn Express in Willmar. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR — Torgerson Properties has completed the first phase of its multimillion-dollar hotel and convention center expansion and remodeling project on U.S. Highway 12 East with the openings of the new Holiday Inn Express and Suites.

Holiday Inn Express was developed in the former Comfort Inn building. As part of the project, Holiday Inn Express will replace the Holiday Inn, a local hotel fixture for over 40 years.

The Holiday Inn is being remodeled and will be rebranded as a Best Western Plus.

During the interim construction period, both the Holiday Inn Express and Holiday Inn are in operation.

“Eventually when the project is completed, we’ll have a Best Western Plus right next door which will be the former Holiday Inn and this Holiday Inn Express (is) already open and running,’’ said David Feist, general manager.

The project includes development of a new Green Mill restaurant, development of an independent sports bar called Ruff’s Wings and Sports Bar, and remodeling of the Conference Center.

Work is expected to be completed in late 2014, according to the company.

Feist said Holiday Inn Express brand has many of the same amenities as Holiday Inn. The difference is that Holiday Inn typically has the restaurant and bar within the same building.

The Express brand offers complimentary full hot breakfast, which Holiday Inn does not. Complimentary breakfast is a trend in the hotel business.

“Our Best Western Plus when we’re done with that will also provide a complimentary full hot breakfast as well,’’ he said.

The Holiday Inn Express phase of the project added a third story on top of a two-story building. Guests will see a hotel with attractive exterior stucco, brick and stone.

Inside they’ll find a pool and spa, spacious public area, and fitness center and business center. Suites are decorated in tasteful color schemes and offer king and queen beds and separate living area with seating and other amenities.

Feist said suites meet the requests of corporate traveling guests, and he said the extra space works out well for weekend guests and families.

“We’ve had a lot of success with Holiday Inn. The parent company is IHG. We’ve got a long-time relationship with them and we’ve had good success,’’ said Feist. “The Holiday Inn Express brand to us really provides the best value and a really strong future in the market from our perspective.’’

Feist said there are several reasons for the project. He said companies are expanding; the leisure business is still strong; the lakes bring many people out here; and the Willmar Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce Convention and Visitors Bureau and other groups promote the lakes area.

“Willmar is a strong, vibrant community. We’re a rural-driven hotel. There are so many things and events that bring people into the area. But it’s really based on a rural economy and we see a lot of strength in that. Every year we see some more increases in business,’’ said Feist.

The Holiday Inn Express project took just over six months. The last day of business for the Comfort Inn was April 21, 2013.

“I never closed a hotel before,’’ said Feist.

When Feist emptied the hotel, volunteers from local organizations such as Habitat for Humanity ReStore and Heartland Community Action Agencies took the beds and other furnishings to be used by people in need.

Feist says community reaction has been positive. He said the future is good and he looks forward to August when the entire project is completed.

Torgerson also owns Days Inn on Highway 12 East.

“Our whole philosophy between our three hotels is we’re always focused on cleanliness and friendliness. And if we can’t provide that, it doesn’t matter how new and nice they are,’’ said Feist.

“But that’s one thing I think we do really well. We keep them clean and we’re a bunch of nice people.’’

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150