Waterfront Place Hotel Celebrates 10 Years

Morgantown Dominion Post
30 October 2013
By Alex Lang

One of the initial waterfront projects was completed pretty close to original plans and now the Waterfront Place Hotel celebrates 10 years in the Wharf District.
The hotel opened in August 2003, with a soft opening and only hotel rooms available.

Director of Catering and Conference Services Deborah Matthews and Director of Sales and Marketing Jennifer Millstone have been with the hotel since it opened.
They recalled the first large group to host an event was the Mountaineer Athletic Club.

The hotel’s conference areas were in the final phases of construction, but the club was insistent about using the site. Hotel staff had to put up drapes to keep the construction areas separate from the meeting space.

The staff helped move everything into the hotel.

Millstone said the staff even moved the furniture into the guest rooms.

“We all pitched in,” she said.

The first group to have an official conference at the hotel was the National Association of College and University Food Services, in October 2003.
“It went off without a hitch,” Matthews said.

The idea of the waterfront complex was first announced in November 1998. WVU and a group of investors committed $55 million to build a hotel and conference center complex along the Monongahela River.

The 7.5-acre spot was to be home a hotel, conference center, office space and parking garage. WVU was interested in the project, at $18 million for its share, to end leases it had for various operations throughout town.

Along with WVU, a group of businessmen — the late Milan “Mike” Puskar, Steve Lorenze and Parry Pertroplus, co-owners of Platinum Properties — helped develop the area.

WVU views One Waterfront Place as a “wonderful arrangement,” university spokeswoman Becky Lofstead said. By not having to pay rent at various locations around town, it has saved WVU money.

One Waterfront Place is the building next to the hotel and houses WVU departments including Human Resources, the Mountaineers Parents Club and University Relations, Lofstead said. It has also provided additional space for units that used to be in cramped areas, such as the Visitor’s Resource Center, which was housed in the Communication Building on the Evansdale Campus.

Now-retired City Manager Dan Boroff said people forget how dismal the site was before the project. There was an abandon railroad line, a chain link fence and other eyesores at the site.

“It’s a striking contrast,” he said.

Boroff said one of the most important aspects of the project was the collaboration among different groups — WVU, private investors, the city and others — led to other projects throughout town, he said.

In the 10 years since it was built, the Waterfront has helped change the riverfront’s look and helped pad the city’s coffers.

“We bring in a lot of business,” said Kyle Johnson, hotel general manager.

Hotel and city officials said taxes paid by the hotel to municipalities is not public record.

Millstone said they bring a lot of money to the city through an occupancy tax.

Not only is Waterfront Place Hotel the area’s largest hotel and conference center, it also partners with tourism groups when there are larger and extended conferences in town.

“We bring groups in that normally wouldn’t be here,” she said.

Industry changes — especially those caused by recent economic shifts — have led to changes in conferences.

Matthews said conferences are no longer wanting the “fluff stuff,” they want to be in-and-out with their meetings.

The hotel has changed management companies a few times in 10 years. The hotel initially started off under the Radisson umbrella. Real Hospitality Group now manages the complex. The Waterfront Place Hotel was the organization’s first hotel.

No matter the changes during the past 10 years, the staff still holds true to that idea from a decade ago. Millstone said that if something needs to be done, everybody pitches in and there are no “It’s not my job” comments.

“It’s like a family,” Millstone said. “A lot of the staff are very close.”


205: Number of Waterfront Place Hotel rooms
1,000: Number of people who can be hosted in a reception in the Platinum Ballroom
9,438: Number of square feet of meeting and event space
10: Years in existence