Construction continues at a steady clip as the new Holiday Inn Express and Suites hotel moves towards completion in North Battleford.
According to Gary Brar of Western Star Group of Hotels, the new hotel is expected to be completed in the first week of July, at which time a soft opening is planned.
In the meantime, work goes on to complete the 89-room hotel, with 30 per cent of the rooms to be suites.
Brar said the hotel will have “all the modern amenities.” A swimming pool area with sauna, slides and hot tub, an exercise room, a meeting room and continental breakfast area will also be part of the finished structure.
Construction began last August and most of the structure is already up, with local as well as Indigenous involvement in getting the new hotel built.
Brar has credited the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies Career Centre for training and supplying a large portion of the local labour for the project.
Brar estimates there have been well over 40 workers on the construction. About half have been referrals from SIIT Career Centre. Others are Brar’s own workers and other subcontractors.
It’s been a good relationship with the career centre, said Brar.
“During the early stages, from foundation to framing, they have sent a number of individuals here. They have learned a lot from us. They were pretty good trained people themselves, too, and we’ve got a few of those still working here.”
“I’ve seen a lot of people from our career centre get employed here,” said Grant Beaudry, jobs coach at SIIT Career Centre. Just as the project was starting, Brar paid a visit to the centre, asked them what they offered, and then started reviewing resumes and hiring.
The plan is for more hirings to happen through the career centre before construction is done. There are also plans for the relationship to continue even after completion.
Brar is already looking to hire full and part time staff for the hotel from a new SIIT program aimed towards the hospitality industry.
“Presently we’re running a guest services representative program at our training centre,” said Paul Ledoux, manager of SIIT Career Centre in North Battleford. They would be qualified to work in any role at the hotel, he said.
That program is presently running and the completion date is July 19. They plan to hold it again this fall.
“We look forward to seeing our graduates, probably a majority of them, working in this new establishment here.”
Once it opens the new hotel is expected to have between 15 to 20 staff, including full and part time.
As a token of his appreciation, Brar presented a cheque to SIIT Career Centre for $1,000.
“I just want to help these guys out. They have done a lot for us to provide a really good work force during the construction of the hotel, and they still keep providing.”
In addition to providing jobs, there is also been an Indigenous connection to the new hotel’s financing, through Peace Hills Trust, which is First Nations-owned.
The hotel is slated to be the northernmost property for Western Star so far. The company has nine other hotels, mainly in southeast Saskatchewan.
This project is a major investment for Brar’s company, estimated to be close to $12 million.
Construction seems to be right on schedule with only minor delays. Unlike the Comfort Inn and Suites construction, which saw pre-fabricated units built in Alberta and shipped to the Battlefords to be put in place, this was a more traditional “stick” build which utilized local labour and materials on site throughout the construction.
Right now, the carpeting is being put in to the units and other things need to arrive as well. They are looking at a full month of cleanup before the property opens up.
Brar expects the hotel will be open just in time for the summer traffic. The plan is to open a couple of floors as part of the soft opening, and to work out the kinks before the entire hotel is opened up.
“We love the location, we have most of the restaurants here,” said Brar. “Location-wise, we could not ask for better.”
The new hotel is located on Pioneer Ave between Territorial Dr. and 114th Street. The land was bought from the city, and Brar particularly thanked Jennifer Niesink, the director of planning and development for the city, for her help in getting the project moving.
Brar is confident the new hotel will carve out its own niche in the Battlefords market. The market has already seen the arrival of one new hotel, the Comfort Inn and Suites, in the last year and he believes there is room for one more.
“I definitely feel like there’s enough traffic going through North Battleford,” said Brar, who pointed to the diversified economy as well as a lot of sports and corporate clients coming in.
He also feels the addition of the two new hotels to the city will add to the hotel capacity and allow the city to be able to host more sports events and conferences.
“It will open up the doors to handling bigger events in the Battlefords,” said Brar. “This will be a different level of play we can offer.”