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$3-million renovation transforms hotel into luxury business retreat.

$3-million renovation transforms hotel into luxury business retreat

An ambitious renovation of the Nor'wester Resort Hotel (formally the Alpine Hotel) in Thunder Bay is scheduled to be complete by the end of next month.

Thunder Bay businessman John Beals and his partner, Ed Wheeler, are investing $3 million to transform the hotel into a competitor for such internationally recognized tourist accommodations as Minaki Lodge.

The partners are turning the 19-year-old hotel into a "full, four-seasons business retreat," says Beals. They are funding the project with personal finances, a $1-million loan from the Royal Bank of Canada, $500,000 from the Ministry of Tourism and Recreation, $250,000 from the Northern Ontario Development Corporation and $98,000 from FedNor.

"It might have been cheaper to bulldoze and re-build," jokes Beals.

The year-long renovation is expected to be complete some time in late April or early May. It entails the addition of 7,000 square feet to the hotel's front entrance and lobby area, and an additional 3,000 square feet to the pool area. Included in the current phase of the renovation are a new fitness centre, saunas and steam rooms as well as improvements to the pool.

In addition, the hotel's 64 rooms and four suites have been gutted and redesigned.

Renovations are almost complete in the 80-seat Garden Cafe dining room, which will offer an unobstructed view of the Nor'wester Mountains.

A 2,000-square-foot addition to the upper floor of the hotel will provide for enlarged seminar, conference and meeting rooms.

"We will have the ability, within the five rooms, to serve 450 persons for meeting and banquets," says Beals.

On the hotel's 45-acre property contractors are hard at work completing the installation of two baseball diamonds, walking trails and tennis courts for the spring. A new nine-hole, par-three golf course is expected to be ready for the 1993 golf season.

Beals insists the Nor'wester Resort Hotel "won't even remotely resemble the Alpine."

He and his partner purchased the Alpine in 1989 and have since purchased the right to use the Best Western hotel franchise name.

"We wanted a new hotel that would attract tourists - to market it as a proper facility. Best Western has got the best reservation system in the world, with the largest number of individually owned properties in the world," says Beals.

Beals says the hotel should have 30 full-time and 60 to 80 part-time staff year-round.

"We are going after a whole new market. One of the problems with the Alpine was that it depended on the ski trade."

Beals says the Nor'wester will offer competition to other high-end resort hotels such as the Blue Finn in Minnesota.
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Title Annotation:Nor'wester Resort Hotel
Author:McDougall, Douglas
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Mar 1, 1991
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