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Omni Continues Aggressive Expansion Plans

It was a big week for Omni Hotels & Resorts. The mid-sized, Texas-based chain bought one hotel and reached a deal to develop and operate another. On Monday, Omni won a bidding war with Starwood Capital to buy the iconic, but bankrupt Amelia Island Plantation in north Florida.

Omni will pay $67.1 million for the resort, a 1,350-acre oceanfront property with a 249-room hotel, a number of villas, conference center, spa, retail, tennis and other recreation facilities. Centerpiece of the resort are its three highly rated golf courses totaling 54 holes.

“Amelia Island is a resort with an amazing reputation, but it was built around real estate development,” says Omni President Mike Deitemeyer. “It has a great core of facilities, but we see an opportunity to create more density from a hotel standpoint.”

Omni plans to add 125 hotel rooms and build a new 16,000-square-foot ballroom. It also plans to update and perhaps expand the swimming pool and other outdoor amenities. The company will also focus on improvements to the hotel’s retail space and f&b facilities.

“Amelia Island is a one-of-a-kind resort that we could never put together today, especially at the price we paid,” says Deitemeyer. “This isn’t a five-year-and-flip-it play for us. There’s great long-term value here, and with a little love and care it can be a world-class resort and golf destination again.”

The day after it topped the auction for Amelia Island, Omni signed an agreement with the city of Nashville to build and operate a headquarters hotel next to the Music City Convention Center, which is under construction and will open in 2013. Under the terms of the deal, Omni will pay for the 800-room, $250-million hotel but will receive more than $100 million over 20 years through a variety of economic incentives from the local government.

Omni has plunged into the convention hotel business in a big way in recent years. In early 2009, it opened a 614-room property across from the Fort Worth, TX convention center. Also last year, it was named to operate a 1,000-room convention center hotel in Dallas that will open in 2012. In all cases, Omni views the properties as more than standard convention headquarters hotels.

In Fort Worth, for example, the Omni has forged strong ties to the city’s cultural scene through, among other things, a partnership with the city’s famed Kimball Art Museum. The hotel works with the museum on cultural programs and has a museum store as part of its retail offerings.

“We’re creating lifestyle centers, not just convention hotels,” says Deitemeyer. “The goal is for these hotels to be destinations in their communities. And it has paid off in Fort Worth, where transient business has exceeded our expectations and leisure business is off the charts.”

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