Co-owners Jonathon Shead

City’s newest hotel to open its doors Friday

With the echoes of last-minute construction activity still reverberating, Campbell River’s newest hotel will open its doors Friday

With the echoes of last-minute construction activity still reverberating, Campbell River’s newest hotel will open its doors Friday.

The Comfort Inn & Suites, the first new hotel built here in nearly 25 years, welcomes its first guests today on the waterfront between Tyee Plaza and Berwick Retirement Community.

“We were going to do a very soft opening April 1, but decided to put it back a couple of days,” said co-owner and general manager Jonathon Shead. “It’s been quite an adventure doing it.”

Shead, who owns nearby Intersport with longtime partner Colyn Clay, is making his first foray into the hospitality industry with Clay and his son, Ken Clay.

As late as Wednesday, Shead and Ken Clay strode the grounds, lobby and hallways of the four-storey structure as construction crews and delivery people swept past in a frenzy of activity. While landscaping and surface finishing work went on outside, staff unloaded and counted food-service items for the continental breakfast room and furniture wrapped in plastic was put in place.

“We’re still trying to catch up, but in the next 48 hours it’s basically a clean-up process,” said Clay, a local developer.

“It’s not quite finished, but it will be ready by Friday,” Shead added. “The staff’s been trained for the last few weeks and everything’s coming together.”

The Comfort Inn will host an official opening sometime in May. But nearly 15 rooms have been booked for tonight, including several for a wedding party and one by an apparently well-traveled guest who makes it a point to stay in hotels on the first night they’re open.

Ground was broken on the site in late 2013, and Shead said building his first hotel has been a real learning experience, with both highs and lows, but believes the time was right for its addition to the local market.

“Colyn Clay has been involved for 40 years in Campbell River, and I’ve been here 31 years,” said Shead, who originally hails from South Africa. “We just saw there was a need for a new hotel, having been so long without one.”

The facility boasts a swimming pool and fitness room, meeting rooms and complimentary hot breakfast, with a patio dining area fronting on Discovery Passage.

The property was purchased by the Clays when they owned Tyee plaza, nearly 10 years ago, said Ken Clay. Shead and the Clays chose to ally with Comfort Inn’s parent company, Choice Hotels, due to its extensive reach — 6,500 properties worldwide, including 300 in Canada — and its loyalty rewards program and Choice Privileges online booking system.

“A lot of our bookings come through the loyalty program,” said Shead. “We already have bookings right through September.”

The Comfort Inn opening comes the same week the historic Quinsam Hotel announced it will close in May after nearly 100 years of operation in Campbell River. The Quinsam’s owners, the Cape Mudge Band, cited economic struggles in the hospitality industry as a major role in that closure, but Shead and the Clays are banking on a bright future for the community’s newest enterprise.

“With BC Hydro doing the (John Hart) dam, the building of the new hospital, everything is looking up for the city,” said Clay. “It made perfect sense to do this now. Campbell River is starting to look good, and we get to bring more people to show them Campbell River, the city we all love.”