TAMPA — As if opening a new hotel just in time to host Super Bowl guests wasn’t chaotic enough, Midtown’s new dual-brand Aloft and Element hotel was tasked with managing construction site during a pandemic.
“We did it,” said Patricia O’Sullivan, the director of sales with the hotel’s operator, Concord Hospitality. “We successfully opened during the pandemic, a week before the Super Bowl.”
The hotel quietly started welcoming guests last week. Room occupancy will surge Thursday, as Super Bowl visitors begin to pile into Tampa ahead of Sunday’s game at Raymond James. The gleaming 226-room hotel is the first business to open in the buzzing Midtown development.
Eventually, it will be joined by office space, apartments, a new Whole Foods, a Shake Shack and outfitter REI — all of which are still being built.
“This is the culmination of many years of dedicated teamwork that went above and beyond every single day to bring Midtown Tampa to life,” said Nick Haines, CEO of the Bromley Companies, Midtown’s developer, in a statement. “With Aloft and Element Hotel open and fully booked for the Super Bowl, it’s perfect timing to kick off our ‘city within a city’ Midtown district.”
Construction crews were busy on scaffolding preparing buildings for their new tenants Wednesday morning. Inside the new hotel, workers sorted foliage by the salt water pool and hung fixtures to prepare the rooftop bar for its debut to the public Friday.
“The last few days have been very exciting,” O’Sullivan said. “COVID-19 has had a tremendous impact on tourism and to Tampa. We’re very fortunate to have developed relationships with the city and NFL event planners.”
While the visitor count won’t be as high as in a traditional Super Bowl year, Tampa hoteliers are eager for the spur in business only the country’s biggest sporting event could bring. O’Sullivan said there are just a handful of stray rooms open the next few days.
Aloft and Element are separate brands inside the same hotel. They share the rooftop bar and restaurant, Sal Y Mar, as well as a banquet and terrace space, the Skyline Ballroom. The brands have modern, but different aesthetics.
Element’s lobby is done up in earthy, cool colors and light woods. Its seating gives the space a mid-century modern flare. Its light and bright rooms have kitchenettes to cater to long-term stays.
Aloft, however, is dark and edgy. Its WXYZ bar is designed for Instagram feeds, with velvet-covered booths, a deep blue pool table and open seating to lounge and sip cocktails. Its rooms are a hipster’s paradise complete with novelty vintage radios and bathroom wallpaper that features gas stations and astronauts.
O’Sullivan said their large banquet space is already attracting parties and companies looking to host meet-ups that can be socially distanced. The banquet area’s terrace — which looks out into the city and gives a perfect view of Raymond James Stadium — was rented out by a small private party to watch Sunday’s game.
“They wanted to be able to celebrate but away from everyone because of COVID,” O’Sullivan said.
Local wedding planners are also touring the space as interested brides sort out planning spaced apart wedding parties during the pandemic.
COVID-19′s damper on traveling has kept the average hotel occupancy rate in Tampa Bay around 50 percent for the last several months. By February, March and April occupancy averages 80 percent or higher during the region’s peak travel season.
Bookings for the new hotel will likely dip after its busy first two weeks, but O’Sullivan said the hotel is looking forward to another boost come April.
That’s when Tampa is scheduled to host another sporting event: WrestleMania.
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