Eleven years is a long time, even for a hotel that will celebrate a century of operation in 2028.
“For a hotel, you give it five or six years (between renovations) and it gets really old,” said Plaza Heritage Hotel general manager Shatha Al-Reihani.
“This one was 11 years.”
The venerable hotel that veered into becoming a rundown shelter for people on welfare in the early ‘90s has successfully polished up its new reputation. That transformation began nearly 15 years ago, with a major renovation and heritage status.
That investment was made possible through the number of guests brought to Kamloops by Rocky Mountaineer, which remains an important market today.
The renovation began late last year, taking nearly six months to complete. The hotel quietly reopened in May and plans a grand opening later this month.
Owner Rob Macdonald maintained a heritage feel inside with the multi-million dollar renovation, without being slavish to any period of history.
Dark, expresso colours dominate, while attempts were made to retain original flooring where possible. That includes sections of hardwood floor originally put down in 1928, that have held up cowboy boots, high heels and even cattle hoofs in a recent showcase cattle auction.
Meeting rooms are named after pioneering ranching families. There is also a Lange Foyer, named after former part-owner and current city councillor Tina Lange.
The bottom floor of the building features extensive wood, rock and tile.
The Plaza’s former Rocksalt lounge fronting West Victoria Street is now Fireside Steakhouse & Bar. It will feature beef from local Houghton Ranch, which has experimented with raising wine-fed beef in past.
“We’ll get it from the farm directly,” said Al-Reihani. “We really want to be the premier steakhouse in town.”
The renovations included to all 67 rooms, including beds, furniture, flooring and wide-screen TVs. Twenty of the rooms retain their original wood flooring.
But while there is plenty of new in the old building, hallmarks of the past remain, including heat from hot-water radiators.
The goal of renovation for the Plaza’s ownership and management is to become a standard for business travellers and the high-end leisure market.
“Locally everyone knows the Plaza,” she said. “Nationally, we’d like to be the hotel of choice in the downtown.”
The gm said she realized the Plaza’s image makeover of the past two decades is complete after she overheard a renovator working in the Blackwell Ballroom — the former Plazoo strip club that closed in 1999 — receive a call from his wife on his cell phone.
At the end of the call, he turned to Al-Reihani and told her ‘If I told my wife 15 years ago I was at the Plaza, she wouldn’t be happy.’”