Hoteliers are used to the everyday requests for an extra ice bucket or softer pillow, but emptying out a ballroom so basketball players can run through their moves?
Welcome to March Madness.
All hands are on deck as area hotels begin welcoming the masses of NCAA fans, players and media that will keep their rooms booked solid for the rest of the week.
“Today we had some cheerleaders request a room ‘with high enough ceilings to throw people in the air,’ ” said Tom Molenda, general manager of the Doubletree Hilton in Amherst.
Fortunately, Buffalo hoteliers have perfected the art of catering to college basketball elite, they said, having hosted the NCAA tournament four times before.
They’ve come to anticipate the impromptu requests for audio visual equipment coaches and players might need to review game footage. They’re used to athletes sprinting up and down their stairwells a dozen flights at a time in workout drills. They know how to maximize parking spaces to fit teams’ giant tour buses.
Feeding all the basketball players, cheerleaders, marching band members and their various entourages simultaneously and getting them out the door in time for tipoff? No sweat.
“In some ways it’s easier, because you have everybody here for one purpose — the game,” said Jay Dellavecchia, general manager of the Hyatt Regency Buffalo.
At Embassy Suites, where guests are almost entirely comprised of NCAA brass and national media, March Madness weekend is actually expected to be quieter and simpler than most normal days, according to Mark Dickerson, the hotel’s director of sales.
Instead of the usual wrangling of individual guests and the efforts of coordinating multiple events such as luncheons and corporate gatherings, the hotel will be relatively quiet for most of the day.
“All of the VIPs will be in other places doing other things,” Dickerson said. “We’ve had CBS ask for a couple of conference rooms, that’s it.”
For hotels catering to fans, staff can expect most of their guests to be on roughly the same schedule, going to the same places and asking the same questions. Staff can anticipate many of their needs in advance, such as directions to restaurants, the arena and public transport.
Most hotels said they plan to extend their bar, restaurant and room service hours to accommodate late-night revelers returning from the games.
Any way it unfolds, hoteliers are grateful for the games, which they regard as something like manna from heaven.
“It’s a great event to have in a month like March, which can be very slow for us,” said David Hart, president and CEO of Hart Hotels, which has five hotels in the Buffalo area.