Omni finds sweet spot in sports partnerships

Omni Hotels & Resorts may not be the official sponsor of Major League Baseball, but it sure has major ties. And it’s about to get even tighter. In late April, Omni, the Dallas-based upper-upscale hotel operator, announced it had partnered with the Atlanta Braves to develop a new hotel in the mixed-used development adjacent to SunTrust Park, the Braves’ new ballpark in Cobb County, scheduled to open in 2017.

The 260-room Omni Atlanta Hotel at SunTrust Park will include rooftop hospitality suites and approximately 12,500 square feet of meeting space, an elevated pool deck and a bar overlooking the plaza and ballpark.

The hotel, being designed by Atlanta-based C+TC Design Studio, will be Omni’s second in the Metro Atlanta area, joining the Omni Atlanta Hotel at CNN Center, which, perhaps not surprisingly, is connected to Philips Arena, home to the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks, and the College Football Hall Fame. It will also be Omni’s second hotel built either adjacent to or connected to a MLB stadium. The other is the Omni San Diego Hotel, which is connected is a pedestrian skywalk to Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres.

Baseball and basketball aren’t the only sports on Omni’s playlist. Last October, Omni partnered with the Dallas Cowboys to develop a new hotel at the future site of the Cowboys world headquarters, in Frisco, Texas, which broke ground in 2014. The 300-room Omni Frisco Hotel should break ground later this year and is expected to open in early 2017.

Located on a 90-acre site, the Cowboys world headquarters will be the new home to the NFL team’s entire football operations, including administrative offices, coaches’ offices and the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. The mixed-use development, which will include a 12,000-seat multipurpose event center, will be built on approximately 66 acres remaining of the 90-acre tract.

SWEET SPOT
Omni sure is finding a niche in the sports world, as Charlie Muller, VP of acquisitions and development for Omni Hotels & Resorts, told Hotel Management. “We are seeing these unique connections becoming another opportunity to drive demand and awareness,” he said.

The Atlanta Braves partnership is evidence. It’s also a deal that Omni has a vested interest in. The hotel group is a 50/50 equity partner with the Braves. (Omni, itself, used between 50-percent to 60-percent debt to fund the project. As Muller told it, the Braves had a desire to use debt on the project, “so we agreed,” he said.)

The genesis of the deal came about via a request for proposal sent out by JLL, which was engaged by the Braves to assist them in the development of what will be a 1-million to 1.5-million-square-foot multiuse space adjacent to the ballpark. “Having a hotel was a component of that,” Muller said. “We went through the process, and negotiated in earnest about our role to have some level of interest in the property.”

Ultimately, Omni won the bid. It came down to a couple things, as Muller explained. “[The Braves] saw our experience with these connection-type properties. We had a significant interest in being there and were willing to invest there. What we could offer to the Braves was the ability to invest and bring a high-quality full-service property.”

Atlanta is already a mature market, and new demand from the Braves new stadium (81 home games, plus the postseason, Muller hopes) is only half of what Omni is banking on. In addition, a 25,000-square-foot office building to be occupied by Comcast is also going up right next to the hotel. An entertainment venue is part of the development, too, only adding to potential demand.

OMNI'S OUTLOOK
Going forward, the company’s main focus will be on expansion through new-build development projects because that strategy, in today’s current market, is the best mode of growth, according to Muller. “The acquisition market has got fully priced with an abundance of capital that’s chasing it,” he said. “We are still looking at acquisitions that would be good long-term investments, but we haven’t really been that competitive.”

In addition to the Atlanta ballpark and Texas developments, Omni will also soon break ground on a 600-room hotel in Louisville, Ky., one block from the convention center.

The Atlanta project aside, Muller said Omni is “not a significant borrower,” but has “used debt recently for some of our newly acquired and mature assets.”

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