The Hyatt Regency Conroe and Convention Center, expected to bring jobs and tax revenue to the city of Conroe, is nearing its opening in late May with construction costs totaling $10.57 million more than originally budgeted.

As of press time May 16, the seven-story hotel was set to open May 25 in Grand Central Park off I-45, the city’s Public Information Officer Andrew Yousse said.

Stephen Naleway, chairman of the city’s Tourist Advisory Committee, said he believes bringing the Hyatt to Conroe will allow healthy competition with convention centers to the south and add tourism opportunities in Conroe.

"[The hotel] is going to be great. This is an opportunity to have more conventions in Conroe with an all-inclusive facility, more space and restaurants,” Naleway said.

However, since its groundbreaking in October 2021, the guaranteed maximum price for the Hyatt hotel has increased from $98 million to $108.57 million, according to city information—a cost that will be paid by bonds. Council Member Howard Wood said the contract between the city and Garfield Construction—the group building the hotel—has been revised seven times, which has received pushback from council.

“The contract .... I inherited it. I want nothing but Hyatt to be successful, but the seventh final guaranteed maximum price is [kind of] an oxymoron to me. ... I can’t support it,” said Wood, who voted against the seventh price change April 13.

Garfield Construction officials said at an April 12 council workshop that the increased cost is tied to inflation and material shortages. The firm would not provide further comment.

As the city prepares for the opening of its first convention center, its four-person Convention & Visitors Bureau—also known as Visit Conroe—is vacant. In April, the city fired the former CVB manager, Shannon Overby, and a staff member; the remaining two staff members resigned, Overby said.

The CVB helps promote tourism in the city of Conroe. With the department vacant, Yousse said the communications team is maintaining the CVB’s marketing efforts in the interim. He said in an April 18 email the city intends on filling the vacant role left by Overby.

“We have already posted this open position and are actively seeking qualified individuals,” Yousse said.

Building the convention center

Collin Boothe, director of finance and assistant city administrator, said the Hyatt Regency includes 250 guest rooms and suites, food and beverage facilities, a fitness center, and a pool. There will also be a full-service restaurant open to the public with a private dining room, a lobby bar and lounge, and a breakfast buffet.

Boothe said other amenities include a business center, high-speed internet, an outdoor pool terrace with an amenity deck and a hotel shop. In addition, Boothe said the hotel includes about 30,000 square feet of meeting space open to the public, including two ballrooms and eight meeting rooms.

“Previously, when our local businesses host out-of-town guests for meetings, there was no full-service hotel in Conroe for them to utilize,” Danielle Scheiner, director of the Conroe Economic Development Council, said in a May 2 emailed statement. “We are excited to have a local facility to accommodate those business needs.”

During hotel construction, the cost has changed multiple times.

Yousse said the cost is being funded through hotel revenue bonds, certificates of obligation, a loan from the Conroe Industrial Development Corp., hotel occupancy tax revenue and interest earnings. He said the increases in the hotel’s cost will not increase the tax burden on residents.

Before the hotel was determined to be a Hyatt, its budget was $92 million in 2021, according to previous Community Impact reporting. Once the city contracted with Hyatt and Garfield Construction, a new guaranteed maximum price was set at $98 million in 2021. Since then, the price has increased by $10.57 million.

Despite the changes in cost, council members said they believe the Hyatt will benefit the community.

Council Member Todd Yancey said the Hyatt is going to benefit Conroe and open up future opportunities.

“So many conferences can come [to the hotel] instead of being in The Woodlands, and hopefully it will follow suit to bring some more things to our area,” Yancey said. “I’m proud of it.”

Conroe’s economy

Yousse said in a May 2 email the hotel is expected to boost Conroe’s economy by creating jobs.

Boothe said because it will be a full-service hotel, patrons can hold meetings, lodge and dine in one location. He said he believes out-of-town visitors will spend money on local retail, restaurants, fuel and nightlife as well, which supports local businesses.

Voodoo Grille opened in November in Marcel Boulevard next to the Hyatt. Owner Scott Elias said as one of the first businesses in the area, he is eager for the business the hotel’s opening will bring.

“We are definitely excited about the opening of the Hyatt, and we are looking forward to the rest of the community around us developing,” Elias said. “We are looking forward to more traffic being driven to the area.”

Boothe said the project will also generate hotel occupancy tax, sales tax and mixed beverage tax revenue for the city. According to city budgets, HOT revenue has jumped 112.85% from fiscal year 2016-17 to FY 2021-22.

Yousse said HOT revenue from the hotel was projected in 2020 to be $215,800 for FY 2022-23.

Scott Harper, president of the Conroe/Lake Conroe Chamber of Commerce, said he believes the hotel is a game changer because it compliments growth occurring in Grand Central Park and brings a new restaurant for residents to enjoy.

“I think the Hyatt Regency will give another option [than the Marriott in The Woodlands], and I think hopefully some of the pricing [from other hotels] will stabilize,” Harper said.

Harper said the Hyatt Regency also ensures visitors will have the option to stay in Conroe versus having to go to The Woodlands or Huntsville.

“I don’t think it will hurt [the smaller hotels]; I think it will compliment them because, with the growth, it keeps people in Conroe,” Harper said. “There’s been times where there’s no available hotel rooms, so this gives more options locally, and keeping that within the Conroe service area is great.”

Revising tourism in Conroe

As the hotel nears its opening, Conroe is shifting its visitors bureau.

Overby—who worked for the CVB for nearly six years before her termination in April—said the visitors bureau was moved in April from City Hall’s fifth floor to the first floor. As such, she claimed the bureau staff was unable to complete their jobs effectively due to being given the new responsibility of greeting guests who enter City Hall.

Boothe said the city’s intent is for the first floor of City Hall to serve as the visitors center. The city previously discussed plans for the first floor, such as a visitors center, in February 2022, according to previous reporting.

“The first floor remodel design and construction are pending, but we are moving forward as quickly as possible,” Boothe said in an April 17 emailed statement.