Racetrack Road continues to add hotel rooms
Construction began on a Microtel hotel on Racetrack Road in Chartiers Township. The hotel will occupy up to 80 rooms.
Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
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Tejas Gosai is a Micro manager.The owner/manager of two Bentleyville hotels is adding a third short-stay facility to his portfolio. He is building an 80-room Microtel on Racetrack Road, Chartiers Township, just west of the Interstate 79 overpass.Clearing of land began about two weeks ago. Gosai said he hopes workers “get the footers into the ground before the end of December” and he is striving for a late summer 2013 opening.The hotel will be constructed on 2 1/2 acres of a 4-acre tract, and Gosai is trying to attract a restaurateur who will locate on the remaining land in front of the Microtel.The Microtel, he stressed, will come first. And when it opens, it will be the latest addition to a hospitality industry that is thriving locally.Racetrack Road and the adjacent area is almost equal parts Entertainment Haven and Hotel Haven. Think The Meadows Racetrack & Casino, think Tanger Outlets. Think drillers, other visiting oil and gas executives and tourists.Think also of the seven existing hotels on or near Racetrack Road, the two others that are planned and another that is possible. When all of the work is finished, perhaps in two years, there will be nine or 10 short-stay facilities that offer 1,000 to 1,200 rooms – enough to accommodate between 1,700 and 2,400 guests on a given night.That’s a lot of hotels for a two-mile stretch, but demand dictates that many, and demand eventually may lead to more being erected. There simply isn’t room at some inns, very little at others. Some hotels along Racetrack and in Southpointe regularly turn away prospective guests.J.R. Shaw, executive director of the Washington County Tourism Promotion Agency, said the hotel occupancy rate countywide through August was 79.7 percent. The 2011 figure was 76.6 percent.“The county has been underserved still in hotel development,” Shaw said. “I know it sounds preposterous, but you see occupancy rates of nearly 80 percent in recent years . . . That is pretty hot by any comparison.”The hotels open in the Racetrack Road area are in North Strabane and South Strabane townships. Those facilities and the number of rooms (in parentheses) are: DoubleTree (138); Courtyard By Marriott (124); Cambria Suites (110); Hampton Inn (105); Candlewood Suites (84); Country Inn & Suites (81); and Comfort Inn (70).The Comfort Inn, Candlewood Suites and Country Inn & Suites are on Medowlands Boulevard.Microtel (80), being constructed on the former site of the Igloo ice cream stand, will join the existing seven, followed by a hotel being built by The Meadows that will feature 200 units and a spa, and is expected to open in 2014.Meadows General Manager Sean Sullivan said last week that the casino is moving ahead with the previously announced project, calculating construction costs.Phase II of the Park Place project in North Strabane, which hasn’t started, may include a hotel. Phase I construction – at the end of Racetrack in South Strabane – is under way, with a second quarter 2013 opening anticipated.Shaw acknowledges that May through November is the busy season for hotels, “when it’s hard to get a hotel on weekends.” But considering the dynamics, the hospitality field in this region will likely do better here than in other areas December through April.“For developers to be interested in building hotels in this economy is a testament to where Washington County is and is going,” Shaw said.Gosai, 30, certainly agrees with that assessment. Three years ago, he was an attorney in Philadelphia, working for mall operator Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust in the bankruptcy and foreclosure department. His father, Dr. Kam Gosai, has a busy medical practice in the Mon Valley, and asked Tejas to take over operation of the family’s Bentleyville businesses – the Best Western Garden Inn and Holiday Inn Express.The inns were flagging at that time. Tejas, however, realized there was a burgeoning market of potential customers. Lots of rig workers and others in the gas industry were coming in and needing a temporary place to sleep. So he targeted them, and now says he has 90 percent occupancy at each hotel.That pleases him, of course, but sometimes he has no vacancies and sending customers back on the road to search for a room distresses him. By opening a Microtel, he can alleviate that demand and, hopefully, benefit financially.He said he likes the idea behind Mitrotel.“You don’t have to have a pool and other crazy amenities. You get a good night’s rest for a fair price.”Being a hotelier isn’t the only reason Gosai is energized by energy. He hosts an hour-long weekly radio show, “All Energy Now,” discussing related issues with experts. Gosai also is president of ToGoMultimedia, based in Washington.He is likewise energized by his environs, and is bullish on what is transpiring.“In the whole world right now,” Gosai said, “there is not a better place, commerce-wise.”