Prosser is getting a second nationally branded hotel — a multimillion-dollar investment driven by rising demand for hotel rooms by wine tourists.
Oklahoma City-based Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores plans to break ground this summer on a two-part project that will locate a 75-room Holiday Inn Express and a travel center anchored by Carl’s Jr. on the south side of Interstate 82 at 680 Wine Country Road.
Love’s is investing about $18 million in the project, including $11 million for the travel stop and $7 million for the hotel. The company will upgrade the Wine Country Road and Merlot Drive intersection with Prosser’s third traffic signal.
Love’s spokeswoman Kealey Dorian said the company typically does not disclose the source of funds for its projects. With more than $22 billion in revenue in 2015, Love’s is among America’s largest private companies.
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The Prosser travel center will offer a mix of a convenience store, a Carl’s Jr. hamburger restaurant and rest facilities for professional truck drivers, including showers and parking spots for up to 80 trucks. The 10,000-square-foot center should open in early 2017.
The hotel will open in mid-2017. It is being developed by the company’s hotel division, Love’s Hospitality, which has not yet hired a contractor.
The Prosser property is among the first Love’s projects to carry the Holiday Inn Express flag, along with a twin under construction in Brigham City, Utah. Love’s Hospitality will operate the hotel under a franchise agreement with the Holiday Inn brand.
While Prosser has several independent hotels, it has just one major branded property, the 49-room Best Western Inn at Horse Heaven on Merlot Drive.
Steve Zetz, Prosser’s city planner, said the project is a welcome addition that addresses several challenges. The intersection at Wine Country Road and Merlot Drive has long needed an upgrade. And the city lacks enough hotel rooms to accommodate the growing number of wine-related events held at Vintner’s Village and the Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center.
Dorian said Love’s generally caters to a mix of tourists and professional drivers. Prosser’s heavy concentration of wineries, vineyards and wine tasting rooms was part of what attracted the company to Exit 80.
“It is a growing business in the area,” she said.
The Port of Benton hopes the new hotel will help it grow even more.
The port developed Vintner’s Village, now home to almost a dozen wine tasting rooms, a restaurant and a picture-perfect nursery, more than a decade ago. Buoyed by that success, it bought land to the south for Vintner’s Village II, but success has been slow to materialize. Eighteen half-acre parcels remain unsold.
Scott Keller, the port’s executive director, said a new hotel is exactly what Prosser needs to capitalize on the popularity of its wine businesses.
“This is going to add some additional places for people to stay. This is what Prosser has been needing,” Keller said. “We’re taking offers. We want to get something going there.”
Forbes magazine ranked Love’s as America’s 14th-largest private company in 2015. It operates 370 retail sites in 40 states and employs approximately 15,000 people.