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April 26, 2012

PROPERTY PROFILE:Moody Gardens Hotel, Spa & Convention Center

It is nothing unusual for a hotel to renovate, but organizing a restoration after surviving severe structural damage is a very different kind of challenge. 

Like many other buildings on Galveston Island in Texas, the Moody Gardens Hotel, Spa & Convention Center (www.moodygardenshotel.com) underwent structural damage after 2008’s Hurricane Ike. Immediate repairs fixed the worst of the damage, but this summer, the 428-room property will launch its first major overhaul since the hurricane, when quick steps had to be taken to repair the convention center and get the hotel back on the map of local meetings destination. 

“The convention center took on water,” recalls Director of Sales and Marketing Jamie Weir. The hotel team faced an unpleasant surprise when they began trying to repair the property: The damage cost approximately $50 million, but insurance would only cover $30 million of repairs. 

Fortunately, Robert Moody, whose family founded Moody Gardens and who is chairman of the American National Insurance Company in his own right, was able to make up the difference and the repairs were completed quickly. “Mr. Moody built the center, and he restored it,” Weir says. One of the biggest challenges the team faced was quickly replacing the 60,000 square feet of carpeting used in the convention center. “When we have trade shows, we roll up the carpet and the decorators can bring in their own,” she says. “The walls are great. We found soundproof walls that take two minutes to move.” The new materials were brought in, and the hotel was soon able to host events as before. “We put in new carpets, and the whole ballroom was redone.”

Since the convention center and ballroom were renovated just four years ago, no major changes are planned for those spaces this summer, although Weir says that a new carpet is planned for the ballroom (pictured). “We will update the lobby, the fine-dining restaurant and the lounge,” she says. The bulk of the renovation will focus on the bedrooms: “We’ll be gutting them and starting from scratch: New bathrooms, new flooring, new vanities. We’ll have better mirrors and lighting and a new carpet. And we’re commissioning new furniture and new soft goods.” Two sample rooms were completed last week, and the teams will choose colors based on what those rooms look like. “We’ll re-do all the suites, as well, taking out the Jacuzzis and turning the rooms into junior suites. The parts with the Jacuzzi will become part of the living room.”


On Galveston Island, the meetings and convention market is particularly fierce, Weir says. “It’s very competitive. 70 percent of our business is groups. There are two convention centers on the island—ours and one on Seawall Boulevard…We compete head-on.” One benefit Moody Gardens has, however, is that the convention center is connected to the hotel, making it easy for delegates to go back to their hotel rooms whenever necessary—especially appealing during the summer. “It’s all under one roof. People don’t want to go to a convention center in itself,” Weir says. “You never have to go out into the weather. That’s one advantage we have.” In total, the hotel has more than 100,000 square feet of combined meeting space, and 5,000 people can sit in the exposition center.


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