A $5.5 million renovation has turned the former Holidome into the “Holiday Inn of Lafayette.” Known for quality service and excellent banquet and meeting facilities, it is ranked among the top tier of the Holiday Inn Hotels group.

Under the helm of General Manager Ed Buchert, a 38-year hotel industry veteran, the hotel is now a first-rate family resort and convention hotel with an Acadian flair. From the infrastructure to the exterior façade, nearly every section of the hotel’s 14 acres was updated and renovated. “We are the only hotel, to my knowledge, that is full-service and has an indoor swimming pool and spa,” Buchert says. “The facilities make it easy and fun to exceed customer expectations for both the corporate and family traveler.”

Hidden from the heavy traffic on Evangeline Thruway is a peaceful park with playgrounds, tennis/basketball courts, soccer goals, and beach volleyball courts. This park is ideal for crawfish boils and company picnics. Inside are the updated indoor pool area, dry sauna, hot tub, fitness center and video arcade. Another playground area with barbecue pits and a deck is nestled between the rooms’ exterior courtyard. A new business center in the sleek, renovated lobby features free wireless high-speed Internet access, PC, copier and printer.

After bouncing around North America with Marriott, Méridien, Bass and Promise hotels, the New Orleans native chose to settle in Lafayette. “I was looking for a little gem that needed a lot of love, and that’s this property,” he says. When he came onboard five years ago, he took his fifth turnaround property to task. “We are going to make a mark on Upper Lafayette,” he adds. “We are going to breathe life back into this grand lady. How are we going to do that? By developing a service-oriented meeting and convention facility with a resort flair.”

In June 2006, Buchert started with infrastructure, replacing all pipes in the circa 1983 building with copper for greater water pressure, and every air conditioner in the 242 rooms was replaced with a custom-built unit.

From there, all guest rooms were remodeled by removing the existing vinyl and installing a mold-resistant knockdown surface. Bathroom vanities were upgraded with granite counter tops, carpets were replaced, and bathroom floors were revamped with 12 x 12 tiles. New beds, sofa sleepers and activity chairs supplanted the out-of-date furniture. Coming in 2010 are contemporary lamps, flat-screen TVs, and new bedding packages for each room.

Next, Buchert tackled the 14,000 square feet of meeting space, tearing back to the walls and installing new carpet, vinyl, lighting, sound systems and sound-proof air walls. The ballroom, L’Acadie, accommodates up to 700 people theater-style, and 350 in a classroom setting. Divisible meeting rooms are named after original Acadian settlements — Port Royal, Louisbourg and Grand Pré. The next set of rooms hold up to 150. Seating up to 125 are the bayou rooms, named for the waters where the Acadians settled. The meeting/reception area overlooks the atrium, which serves as a dining area for up to 350 guests.

Following the Acadian theme, the restaurant was renamed “Bistro du Cayenne” and revitalized with a new á la carte menu and redesigned two-sided buffet serving up to 158 people per hour. Full-service catering and banquet services are also available, with award-winning chef Daniel Fontenot serving as food and beverage director.

But the most important factor is service. Many key employees have been with the hotel for years, including meeting directors Carla Schrimp and Carissa McDaniel, and sales director Sarah Gabehart. “We are known for the quality of our people,” Buchert says. “Our staff members and the culture that we have built here have brought this hotel into the upper one-third of all Holiday Inns for guest satisfaction.”

In the first quarter of 2010, the hotel will install new signage and exterior green lighting at the entrance.

The final item on the 2010 agenda is the renovation of the 1,200-square-foot presidential suite. This space features two bedrooms, two baths, Jacuzzi and sitting/dining/entertaining area. Renovations are slated to be complete in April. “A good hotel never stops renovating,” Buchert explains. “When you don’t keep putting money into it and you don’t keep renovating, then it goes from a rising star to a milking cow. If you keep milking the cow without putting money into it, it becomes a dog. We are committed to remaining a rising star.”

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