SOUTH SIOUX CITY — General manager Ralph Bobian officially knew the Marina Inn name was no more when he changed his voicemail and email signature to reflect the former independent hotel’s conversion to a Marriott property.
“It was a little bit sad for me to do that, but it’s time to go on to bigger and better things,” said Bobian, who has managed the property for five years.
Last week, after a nine-month multimillion-dollar renovation, the Marina Inn Hotel and Conference Center formally became Delta Hotels by Marriott South Sioux City Riverfront.
“I tell people, ‘I don’t care what you call us as long as you stay here and dine here,’” said owner John Gleeson, whose family acquired the property in 1972.
Prior to their purchase, it was a Hilton for a few years but operated as an independent for 45 years until earlier this month.
As Gleeson weighed the pros and cons of staying independent or joining the Marriott family, he noted the benefits of partnering with the Washington, D.C.-based multinational chain were too numerous to pass up.
“Marriott, today, is the largest hotel company in the world; they have 6,000 hotels around the world,” Gleeson said. “They have 100 million Marriott Rewards Program members — a 100 million.
“...They are so smart, so knowledgeable about the hospitality industry; it’s most impressive. Ralph and I both were very impressed with the caliber of people we have worked with over the last year and a half.”
It's the first Marriott brand hotel to open in the metro area.
Gleeson’s application to become a Marriott partner was approved in summer 2016 and since then he and Bobian have worked alongside officials from the chain to ensure the South Sioux City property met its high standards.
The riverfront property — widely considered one of Siouxland’s preeminent lodging destinations — underwent a slew of upgrades and renovations across its more than 200,000-square-foot campus.
Modern contemporary is how Gleeson and Bobian describe the Delta’s new aesthetic, which includes real wood features and sleek fixtures across the property.
Tech also is a big part of the change. Complimentary wireless internet reaches every corner of the property, guests can check-in from their phone and will eventually be able to use their devices as a room keycard.
A former office behind the hotel’s lobby was converted into The Bean, a coffee shop that serves pastries and Starbucks coffee products.
Starbucks Coffee, snacks and other beverages are also available for free at an exclusive second-floor lounge accessible only to Marriot Gold and Platinum Rewards Members.
The Link, a public lounge area connecting the hotel’s east and west wings, was redesigned as a full-fledged business center. Link visitors can take advantage of the desktop computers, charge their devices on a tabletop in the center of the room with built-in USB ports, watch TV in front of a massive mounted flat screen or just sit back and relax on the furniture.
A 24/7 state-of-the-art fitness center that overlooks the Missouri River and is adjacent to the indoor and outdoor pools also opened. Some of the new gym's features include ellipticals, stationary bikes and treadmills with built-in touchscreens that allow users to access the same TV package offered in their room, complimentary earbuds and free weights.
Additionally, more than 60 of the hotel’s 181 rooms were renovated, the river adjacent garden areas were revamped with new patio furniture and everything from doors to the elevators were replaced throughout the building.
Bobian said most of the changes went beyond what was required by Marriott standards.
The influx of improvements has not gone unnoticed by guests.
“Not too many hotels have two pools — one indoors, one outdoors — you don’t find that around here; you don’t find that in a five-state area,” Gleeson said. “And we’ve had a lot of out-of-town guests — we’ve had Las Vegas people here; San Francisco in the past few months — and they are blown away by the quality of the hotel/property we have here.”
One area of the property where no changes were needed was at Kahill’s Chophouse, the 16-year-old award-winning upscale eatery housed on the Delta’s second floor.
Bobian recalled one of Marriott’s corporate food and beverage employees ordering scallops at Kahill’s and saying it was one of the best meals she had eaten anywhere.
“We had over 15 Marriott team members on-site over the last few days that are helping us through the transition, and they are most impressed with the property,” Bobian said. “Not only in comparison to other Deltas, but also in comparison to other full-service Marriotts.”
Throughout its nearly 50-year history, the Marina Inn name has meant a lot to people.
Bobian and Gleeson said they’ve spoken to individuals who told them stories of having their wedding or family reunion there, so they understand why some question the decision to rebrand and they offer them their reassurances.
"The same great team that has been in place for over 30 years will continue to be here servicing guests," Bobian said.
"That won't change; it's basically just a name change," Gleeson added. "That's it."