While the hotel industry was bombarded by COVID-19 incoming all year, the Huntsville Marriott at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center took advantage of the hunker-down time to renovate its aging hotel property located along I-565 at the city’s iconic Saturn V rocket.
Built in 1986, the Marriott was the place to be for travelers visiting Marshall Space Flight Center, Redstone Arsenal, the Space & Rocket Center Museum, Space Camp, and the NASA training facility.
According to the hotel’s new general manager, Brian Woolever, growing trends and feedback from their guests show that travelers have different priorities today than they did 30 years ago. Acknowledging that, the revitalization has been focused on making the Huntsville Marriott the place to be in 2021.
“We replaced carpeting in the rooms with hardwood floors that are much easier to keep clean and introduced a more formal, stylish design that is more along the lines of what a person would put in their homes,” said Woolever. “We decided to go with only an outdoor swimming pool and tripled the size of the fitness center because working out while on the road is the current trend.”
While the Huntsville Marriott, like many other hotels, took a big hit the first couple of months of the pandemic, Woolever expects the newly revitalized Marriott to take off like the famous Saturn rocket next year as the new design will meet the needs of the post-pandemic business and leisure traveler.
“You can feel the business travel industry biting at the bit,” he said. “It is ready to move, especially once the vaccine hits and our hotel will not be the run-of-the-mill hotel of the past. We have the right concepts and the right leadership in place to take it to the next level.
The Marriott management team: (l-r) General Manager Brian Woolever; Garien Shelby, Food & Beverage director; and Paul Romero, director of Sales and Marketing.
“We want to be a Marriott hotel that is in the city, and of the city.”
Woolever isn’t the only new management leader at the Huntsville Marriott. Paul Romero is the new director of Sales and Marketing and Garien Shelby has joined the team as Food & Beverage Director.
“Our focus has been putting ourselves in a position to be the best we can be when that travel light switch turns back on,” Romero said. “We put the key players in place so when we get back normal travel again, we will be the best travel experience possible.
The Barrel Room Bar has been rebranded with a laid-back vibe, offering a variety of high-end bourbons and hand-crafted southern cocktail favorites.
“Everything from our suites and our new restaurant concept, Southern Chop, which is Garien’s creation; to the newly designed and rebranded Barrel Room Bar; we will provide a hotel experience that is A-plus across the board.”
Shelby said the new restaurant is grateful to be a part of the Marriott, but he believes Southern Chop will be a favorite among locals that can compete with the best of the best restaurants in Huntsville and Madison.
“Southern Chop will showcase Alabama southern cuisine, grandma’s classics and food we grew up on in the South like southern braised greens, pinto beans, cornbread, and pimento cheese,” said Shelby. “We put a spin on it by adding hand-cut steaks or fresh seafood from the Gulf Coast, and as much local produce as we can find.”
The Barrel Room Bar is no longer just a lobby bar, but completely rebranded with a laid-back vibe, offering a variety of high-end bourbons and hand-crafted southern cocktail favorites.
Other renovations feature elevated meeting and group space, including 16 event rooms and more than 20,000 square feet of total event space.
The Huntsville Marriott design concepts are managed and developed by Ascent Hospitality. The company will begin construction on a Marriott Autograph Collection Hotel in downtown Huntsville in the coming months.