Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club undergoes $16 million makeover

Renovation isn’t the right word. Nor is revitalization.

And “face-lift?” Well, forget it.

All of those terms are too tame to describe what is underway at the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club. The popular resort is in the final stages of an epic overhaul, with $16 million invested in revamped guest rooms and the construction of a $5 million pool complex.

Those figures are only part of the remodel’s total tally. Since 2000, the hotel’s longtime owners, the Watkins family, have spent $55 million on additions and improvements, all in an effort to usher the historic hotel into a bright, new future.

“It’s a big number, and it certainly shows a good commitment by the Watkins family to want to keep the resort viable and progressive and moving forward,” said Jim Gunderson, the property’s general manager, of the changes.

Since summer 2008, five of the hotel’s six buildings — or 280 rooms and their adjoining common areas — have received not only a dust-off, but a near do-over. Rooms in the hotel’s oldest building were also updated, but more gently, because of their age of construction.

Prior to this room remodeling, the most recent overall room update was in the mid-1990s and focused primarily on cosmetic touches, said Gunderson. This time, the fix went deeper, as hotel bathrooms were stripped of their bathtubs to make way for glass-enclosed, walk-in showers. Sleek stone and wood vanities, complete with double sinks, replaced their outdated predecessors.

Beyond the bathrooms, flat-panel televisions and new sliding glass doors were installed in each room. Then there’s the décor, which can only be classified as beach chic. Colors alternate between boldly tropical and naturally neutral, while wooden plantation shutters grace the windows.

Everywhere, there is the subtle suggestion of hotel’s iconic blue-and-white wave logo. It’s in the blue-and-green pattern of each room’s carpet, and in the silvery spiral on the walls of the elevator in the Watkins Building. It’s even in the carved accents on those beautiful bath vanities.

And lest anyone fear some of the hotel’s most memorable touches were lost in the transition, don’t doubt. The ceramic fish plates of Naples artist Jim Rice still dangle from each guest door, and the black-and-white works of celebrated Everglades photographer Clyde Butcher continue to adorn every room.

So far, the response from guests has been overwhelmingly positive, Gunderson said. While there will always be some small portion of people who reject change, Gunderson believes the recent updates have been done in a way that honors the spirit of the hotel.

“We have to make improvements,” he said. “But I think we’ve always tried to do it in a way that’s sensitive to the community.”

Part of the hotel’s allure is its distinctly Old Florida flavor, but even the most devoted guests are only willing to forgive so much wear and tear in return for history and character, Gunderson explains. A dated room may not ruin a trip, he said, but it can be “a deal breaker if you’re looking for the guest to come back.”

That, naturally, is what the resort wants. When the Watkins family bought the hotel in 1946, it was one of the only — and certainly the best — hospitality games in town. Now it must hold its own against its larger, flashier, corporate neighbors to the north, such as the two Ritz-Carltons on Vanderbilt Beach Road and the Naples Grande on Seagate Drive.

Yet such competition seems to sit easily on Mike Watkins, president of the hotel and grandson of its founder. He’s not throwing down any guesthouse gauntlets, but with his property’s recent revisions, Watkins believes the Beach Club is ready to meet the challenges issued by more modern hotels.

“We think we can match their quality, and we’re excited about that,” Watkins said.

The resort rests on 125 acres on Gulf Shore Boulevard South and includes a championship golf course, spa, fitness center, tennis center and orchid house. Locals, as well as savvy snowbirds, lovingly refer to the hotel as simply “the Beach Club,” and patronize its amenities — especially its beachfront bar at sunset — with a loyalty and enthusiasm that borders on the cultish.

Fans of the beach bar will be pleased to learn it too is undergoing a remodel, although not until next season. Details are still being decided, but part of the current plan is to close the existing pool, creating storage for the hotel’s irrigation needs and granting more space for the public to mingle.

The hotel’s new pool complex will have two pools, two whirlpools, eight cabanas, new lockers and restrooms, a pool shop and a bar with food service. It is expected to open for guests in the next several weeks.

It’s a grand plan, and so much more than a face-lift. The Beach Club, though, remains the same, Watkins promises.

“We try to be local and homey,” he said. “We try to be what we are.”

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Stories

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features