New Hilton Baltimore opens with fanfare and validation; O�Malley thanks GBC for supporting hotel project

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The new Hilton Baltimore hotel opened its doors on August 22 with a celebration punctuated by a marching band, speeches by top officials from Maryland and Baltimore City, and a special first guest — Babe Ruth’s daughter.

The construction of the 757-room city-owned hotel connected to the Baltimore Convention Center was strongly supported by the Greater Baltimore Committee.

“This underscores Baltimore’s commitment to building on its strong assets as a site for conventions and meetings,” said GBC President & CEO Donald C. Fry. “The substantial advance bookings, including the prestigious Conference of Mayors annual meeting in 2011, are already demonstrating this hotel’s value. It will have a positive effect on the growth of city’s entire hospitality and tourism industry.”

“All of us in our state and in our city knew that we had to have a convention center hotel,” Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, who was mayor when the city decided to build the hotel. “The business community said it was the right thing to do,” he said, specifically thanking the GBC for its support.

But the hotel is “a symbol of something deeper that’s happening in our city,” O’Malley added. “This is about a city that’s staying on the map.”

In addition to being an asset that will attract future convention bookings to the city, the hotel’s construction provided a “huge boost” to the local construction industry, channeling millions of dollars into the local economy, said Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon, who was president of the City Council in 2005 when it approved the hotel project.

Babe Ruth’s daughter, Julia Ruth Stevens, was honored as the first official guest of the hotel. Mayor Dixon and Governor O’Malley presented Stevens with artwork of Babe Ruth that will be displayed in the hotel.

The City Council intensely debated whether the city should own the hotel and finance its construction after failing to attract viable private financing and ownership. But “the decision to move forward with this hotel represents one of the crucial moments in our history,” said Dixon.

Baltimore City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was Dixon’s floor leader when the council approved the hotel’s construction. Getting the project through the council was “the most difficult task I had,” Rawlings told guests at the opening ceremony. “But today, even before the doors open, we know that this project is a success.”

In attracting Hilton as the hotel’s operator, the city got the hotel company that is “at the top of the heap” for group business, said Baltimore Development Corporation President M. J. “Jay” Brodie, who emceed the opening ceremonies, which began with a performance by the Douglass High School marching band and flag squad.

The increase in available hotel space makes Baltimore a venue for organizations that “had not previously considered Baltimore City” for their conventions, said City Comptroller Joan Pratt. The new hotel “is an inspiration and serves as an open invitation to the world to visit Baltimore City.”

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