Culture / Travel

Roger Goodell’s Personal Houston Super Bowl Playland will Morph into the City’s Ultimate Staycation Resort

BY // 01.04.17

Roger Goodell’s personal playpen will soon morph into Houston’s staycation delight. This is the expected lifecycle of the new $370 million Marriott Marquis in downtown Houston.

Built in many ways because of Super Bowl LI’s grand ambitions, this mammoth showpiece — 29 floors, 1000 guest rooms —is set to serve as the official league headquarters hotel during Houston’s international spotlight moment. The NFL’s upper level executives, players from teams not in the big game and a certain Northeast team owner (think the NFL’s version of the Evil Empire) will all be staying at the Marriott Marquis.

“This is really ground zero for everything,” says Jay Marsella, director of sales and marketing at Marriott Marquis.

In other words, this will be one of the prime Super Bowl people watching hangouts. The NFL has the entire hotel Super Bowl week — and decides who gets to stay there.

But that hasn’t stopped Houstonians from enjoying the gleaming new hotel — its chandelier collection, spread throughout the public areas is worth a look just on its own — now. On the day after Christmas, the hotel’s opening day, the new sports bar Biggio’s was already packed with folks watching the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football.

Others walked around the long lobby way — it could almost fit a full football field — and stopped at the midway wine bar Cueva. Or walked past the highly-anticipated, soon-to-open (Jan. 9) new Hugo Ortega restaurant Xochi’s shuttered door. More than a whiff of mystery surrounds this spot.

“We haven’t seen the menu yet,” Marsella admitted a few weeks before opening.

Walker Street Kitchen — a Gulf Coast inspired restaurant — is open and already serving a surprising tasty red fish for a hotel restaurant. Having a filet cooked in an 8th Wonder Brewery reduction is another nice local touch. (To see Waker Street’s full menu, click through the photo gallery above this story.) If this is the Marriott Marquis Houston’s “casual restaurant” as the hotel advertises, this spot’s food scene is in a good place.

The restaurants — as welcome as they are on a downtown scene that’s gaining new Super Bowl life — do not give this new Marriott Marquis its oomph wow factor, though. That comes from the massive Texas-shaped lazy river pool that instantly becomes a holy grail to any kid in Houston who hears about it. Hence, the staycation visions.

While the pool may open to the public on surprise special days — with those revealed on the new hotel’s social media accounts — the plan is for it to remain largely guests only for now.

There will be a poolside bar of course — and it’s easy to see this becoming a hot adult playground as well.

Roger Goodell gets the run of the new Marriott Marquis. This is the NFL’s Super Bowl central.

This is what Houston’s Marriott Marquis is about. It is designed to be a place to hang. The owners (Houston-based RIDA Development) concentrated the big bucks on the public areas of the hotel — the pool, the restaurants, the long lobby, the absolutely mammoth, nearly 40,000 square foot ballroom that will compete to host Houston’s top society events. The rooms themselves, while nice and new, are largely standard Marriott-type hotel rooms.

This is a hotel geared around getting people out of their rooms — enjoying the amenities, and yes, spending money.

“You don’t want guests just sitting in their rooms,” Marsella says.

That does not figure to be a problem. This hotel is like your most excitable friend, the guy who’s always nudging everyone out the door for a night on the town. Like baseball? Hall of Famer Craig Biggio will be making 30 contracted appearances at Biggio’s throughout the year (it’s part of the naming rights deal). Need space to wander? The convention level boasts all the space, nooks and crannies (not to mention more impressive chandeliers) you’ll ever need. Want to exercise? The hotel ownership group took the Marriott Marquis brand’s required gym specs and doubled it. And you’ll have views of Discovery Green or the city skyline from those treadmills.

RIDA Development knows showcase hotels. In many ways, it’s become something of the company’s specialty. It built the $400 million Hilton Orlando, the largest hotel completed in 2009. It is behind the $250 million Omni Resort at ChampionsGate, a Florida golf mecca. And it’s currently building one of the most ambitious hotel projects in recent history anywhere — the $800 million, 1,500-plus room Gaylord Rockies.

The owners of the new Marriott Marquis Houston are also building the $800 million Gaylord Rockies.

This Houston Marriott Marquis is clearly one of RIDA’s showpiece properties. When you’re looking out the window on a higher floor, down at the striking blue Texas-shaped pool oasis, the scope of those visions become clear.

Sure, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell gets the run (and rule) of this playland first. But then, it becomes Houston’s.

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