Rock Hill wants to be a destination. Now it has to put the missing pieces in place

An Avid hotel that will be four stories and offer 95 rooms is coming to Rock Hill.
An Avid hotel that will be four stories and offer 95 rooms is coming to Rock Hill. Courtesy of Avid

Rock Hill can’t be a destination city without rooms for all those guests once they get here. At the going rate, the city shouldn’t have a problem.

Two more hotels are on the way. They’ll be right beside each other, in the Rock Hill Galleria shopping hub near I-77.

The city approved a Tru by Hilton site plan last summer. Its planning commission approved a change March 13 allowing for a second hotel on the four acres at 800 Galleria Boulevard, near the Wingate Inn. The site is vacant now.

That second building will be an Avid hotel, the newest of more than a dozen brands from hotel group IHG. It will be four stories and offer 95 rooms.

Abby Jensen, spokesperson for Avid, said all hotels in the brand are new from top to bottom with smart TVs, internet offerings, modern and comfortable spaces to meet or work.

“The basics done exceptionally well,” she said, “at a fair price.”

The Avid site should open by late 2019.

Like Avid, Tru by Hilton is a new brand. Tru bills itself as “vibrant, affordable and young-at-heart.” The Tru site is working through the city’s plan review process now. It will be four stories and have 106 rooms.

The site plan for both hotels shows some planned construction around them, including a 5,000-square-foot restaurant just across from the Wingate.

The new hotels aren’t any more an accident than the dozens already on the ground.

“In the past it’s been that with us bringing in the events, we’re having to go outside our area for these hotels to accommodate the people,” said Connie Delaney, chairwoman of Rock Hill’s tourism commission. “Now with the number of hotels in the Rock Hill and Fort Mill area, we can keep everything here with us.”

Delaney’s group recommends to Rock Hill City Council how it should spend accomodations tax money generated by hotel stays. Making Rock Hill a destination is “more than just sports,” though sports in particular are a major draw with soccer, baseball, cycling and other venues hosting competitions.

Depending on the event, competitors come to Rock Hill from across the region, nation and sometimes the globe. Delaney recalls a national youth soccer event several years back where a lack of hotel space was a problem. Visitors had to book accomodations outside the city.

“There were people complaining at the time because the money wasn’t staying in Rock Hill,” she said.

If hotel space remains a problem, it’s a dwindling one. Through the end of 2017, York County had 39 hotels combining for almost 3,500 rooms.

According to the Rock Hill/York County Convention & Visitors Bureau, there could be 10 or more hotels added within the next few years. StayBridge Suites should open next to the Holiday Inn Galleria this summer. La Quinta Inn & Suites has a site planned near Home2 Suites in Rock Hill, off exit 79 of I-77.

Last fall, Knowledge Park leaders announced a deal for Cambria Hotels and Suites to build a six-story, 110-room hotel in Rock Hill. Another Cambria property is planned in Fort Mill, another area seeing its own hotel boom.

TownePlace Suites should open in the Carowinds Boulevard area by 2020. The developer there is asking to split the parcel to allow for a second hotel on the site. A SpringHill Suites by Marriott will open beside and be run by Carowinds, though it’s planned for the North Carolina side.

Tega Cay also expects a new hotel as part of its Game On project.

Billy Dunlap, executive director for the convention and visitors bureau, said recently amid the wave of new Fort Mill hotel proposals that each creates jobs and economic opportunity. Hotels are all supply and demand, he said, factoring in business travel that keeps hotels filled during the week to sports and tourism events drawing large crowds on weekends.

“Any time a new hotel comes into our area, it’s a great thing for the community,” Dunlap said.

The newest hotels in Rock Hill aren’t far from Manchester Meadows or Cherry Park, sites that draw considerable sports tourism. Right on the interstate, they aren’t terribly far from any Rock Hill draws when it comes to access. In recent years Rock Hill hotels have been used for major events from annual festivals to the BMX World Championships.

City officials estimated that event alone in 2017 generated close to $20 million in local revenue.

The new hotels will factor into future tourism, just as soon as they’re open.

“When we go out to recruit events, when we go out to recruit tournaments, anything that we do tourism-wise, we’re always looking at hotel rooms,” Dunlap said recently. “The more rooms we have, the bigger events that can make a larger impact on York County.”

Delaney stills sees a little room for improvement on the hotel front.

“I think we could handle a couple more,’ she said. “If we get the one in Knowledge Park and it does well, and there’s room for a second one to come up.”

Part of what makes Rock Hill so appealing, leaders say, is its hospitality once folks get here. But when it comes to sharing revenue just because there aren’t enough rooms for guests, Delaney said she’ll pass.

“I think if we can keep it in York County,” she said, “I think we’ll be doing fine.”