Just a Frisbee toss from the Olympic Oval is the University of Calgary’s latest innovation: the $57-million Hotel Alma. It’s the first full-service hotel ever to be built on a Canadian university campus and it opened its 100 swank rooms in October ‘09.
Shaped like a Y, you enter this retro-modern hotel at its critical bend. That’s when you step into a world so un-university-like you could be in boutique digs in Manhattan. No dark homey wood, no library stacks, no overstuffed couches, no posters of Ché.
Instead, you get ultra-modern, fully wireless chic. Simple grey tiles and stripe-y wood are offset with flashes of orange in the round set of stools in the lobby and the playful Verner Panton-designed chairs in the nearby bistro. There you’ll find a sparkly wall of silver beads, black chandeliers plus a white-hot menu of flatbreads, salads galore and a generous charcuterie board.
It’s not unusual for universities to open their residences to the public during summers. But the idea behind operating a full-time hotel on campus was to keep some of the $2-million that is lost to outside lodging when visiting faculty, guest speakers and even Olympic trainers visit U of C.
“The Alma is open to the public year-round, but part of that public may have ties to U of C,” explains Tarah Blum, Hotel Alma’s marketing sales manager.
On the top three floors, guests will find ultra-modern meeting rooms, laundry facilities and jaw-dropping views of the Rockies, the campus or Calgary’s spiky skyline. Flat-screen TVs, mp3 docking stations, mini-fridges, microwaves, queen-size beds and a funky desk space are the stuff of standard rooms. The one-bedroom suites on the seventh floor are fully appointed with king-size beds, roomy bathrooms and a separate TV-living space.
Hotel Alma will also act as a living lab for the Hotel and Resort Management program at U of C’s Haskayne School of Business once development of the program is complete. Some 40% to 50% of the hotel employees are university students and graduates.
“More programs, such as internships, are in the works, as are special packages that might combine a World Cup event or a world-class concert with a hotel stay,” adds Blum. “Eventually, we’ll also have web deals; but right now, our opening rates are a bargain… and our rates will always include access to U of C’s remarkable fitness facilities.”