It may be later than planned – but the big name hotel that bosses at Doncaster Racecourse hope will help transform the town is ready to open.
Bosses at the Town Moor track are ready to open the new £20 million Hilton Garden Hotel, built next to the racecourse roundabout and with panoramic views of the track, home of the St Leger.
With 154 rooms, the new building will be the biggest hotel in the borough. It was original expected to open in the summer, but this month the final pieces of work were being completed, a year and a half on from the start of construction in February 2017.
It will have room service from 5pm until 10pm, fitness rooms, and a 24 hour shop.
Racecourse staff were invited to test the catering, sampling the breakfast and dinner menus for test days last week.
Around 50 hotel staff are already in post and ready for opening, although more may be brought in for special functions.
Its hospitality facilities will be ready for use at the St Leger.
But it is beyond racing where the bosses at the racecourse, who own the franchised hotel, hope to see the benefit.
Yes, they expect to see the hotel thrive on racedays, events that traditionally attract parties.
But they also expect the new facility to be a major boost to business tourism, potentially opening the doors to more shows and exhibitions at the venue’s conference facilities.
Bosses see the new hotel as a spearhead for a planned re-branding of the non-racing side of the venue. and expect it to make the venue more appealing to organisations who want rooms on site for their conferences.
Nikki Griffiths, director of sales, at Doncaster Racecourse, said: “Some clients want beds on site – so having a hotel here potentially opens up new opportunities. It is an opportunity to grow the business and move it forward.
“We are about to re-brand the non racing part of the business and we think this will help attract events like three day conferences. We will have a lot of flexibility because of the amount of space we have here.
“Of course there will also be the raceday customers. A lot of people come to the racing for the social element, to do something for special occasions.”
The re-branding will attempt to raise awareness of the conferencing and catering at the venue, and is expected to go under the name Conventrex at Doncaster Racecourse, to encompass conferences, exhibitions, events, and entertainment.
Ms Griffiths believes the venue has a lot going for it, with Doncaster’s central location served well by motorways, an airport, and around 3,000 parking spaces.
She feels the borough as a whole will benefit from the new hotel because of the extra conferences it could attract, and added that existing hotels in the borough were supportive of the development.
“We went through a full feasibility study to make sure there was the demand,” she said. “If we can attract more business the knock-on will be that Doncaster needs more hotel rooms. When the racecourse is busy, other hotels will be busy, and I think they will see the benefits economically.”
In the past, the racecourse has hosted conferences with as many as 2,000 delegates, such as the UKIP party political conferences.
If three day exhibitions come to the borough, it is believed the numbers could be as high as 12,000.
Already, there are bookings for the future. The racecourse has already been in touch with other borough hotels to help cater for events requiring 350 bed nights.
There are plans for more hotels in Doncaster. The Yorkshire Wildlife Park is looking to open one as part of its planned expansion.
Bawtry Golf Club in Austerfield has plans which include a 76-room hotel with adjoining conference venue.
The racecourse is not the first sports venue to build a Hilton next to its site. Similar hotels have been built at the Sunderland football club, at Lancashire County Cricket Club’s Old Trafford ground.
The new Doncaster venue will have a function suite for 400 people, which will also be able to be used for conferences, with a view across the racecourse.
Danielle Saville, the sales manager for the new Doncaster Hilton, said: “The level of interest locally has been fantastic. I think that has been helped by the fact that people have watched it go up next to the racecourse.
“It’s just so exciting to be able to be able to open the new hotel here in Doncaster.”