Avalon Inn Aims for Awesome with $20M Renovation

HOWLAND, Ohio — Ron Klingle’s goal is to restore the luster – and then some – to the property best known over the years as the Avalon Inn.

His company is nearing completion of the first of a three-phase, $20 million renovation and expansion that its chairman and CEO says will result in a property unlike any close to here.

In August 2014, Klingle’s Avalon Holdings Corp. purchased the property in Howland Township then branded the Magnuson Grand Hotel. It sat next to Avalon Holdings’ Avalon Lakes Golf Course and the company headquarters.

“Over the 25 years that we’ve owned Avalon Lakes Golf Course, we’ve been asked many times whether we’d be interested in owning the hotel. And we’ve always declined,” Klingle says, mainly because the company had other items on its agenda.

“Now that we’ve created the country clubs with Squaw Creek and [the Avalon at Buhl] and Avalon Lakes, having a hotel right beside it made all the sense in the world.”

The Avalon Inn, as it is again known, was “one of the premier places to stay” in the northeastern United States and had a “very good reputation,” he says.

“We saw an opportunity that we could combine some facilities at the hotel with our country club, add facilities at the hotel that our country club facilities didn’t have, and create a situation for our country club members and our hotel guests that was pretty much unparalleled anywhere,” the CEO says.

Over the past 25 years, however, the building had “fallen into quite a state of disrepair,” he laments. Among other issues, the swimming pool could no longer be used, he points out.

“We’ve had to almost totally gut the facility – all new plumbing systems, all new heating and air conditioning, re-drywalling, everything is brand-new in the facility,” Klingle says.

By the time work is finished on the original building, slated for early June, “we’ll be able to say it’s fully brand-new.”

The project has “had its ups and downs,” concedes Bruce Sekanick, architect and secretary-treasurer of Phillips/Sekanick Architects in Warren.

“When you’re getting into an older building like that, you’re always trying to find out what’s covered,” the architect says. “

And once you get into it, you find things sometimes that are surprising and sometimes you find exactly what you expected.”

The main surprise was discovering how well the original building was constructed. “I expected to get in there and see some parts that were questionable,” Sekanick says. “When we got into it, the structure itself was really very well done.”

Still, says Terry McConnell, president of McCon-nell Construction Co. in Hermitage, Pa., general contractor on the project, “We’ve had some interesting findings in that old building.”

These include the results of “old work habits that are no longer acceptable that we’ve had to correct,” he says.

“It’s going to be practically a brand-new building when we’re done – from underneath the concrete all the way up,” he says.

The renovated guest rooms include redone bathrooms and new wallpaper, refrigerators and locally bought high-definition television sets with DirecTV service, including digital video recording capability.

After extensive research, Klingle says he selected BedInABox mattresses for the beds.

“They’re twice as expensive as every other mattress,” he remarks, but he is so satisfied with the brand he put one in his home. “I’ve never slept better in my life,” he says.

In fact, the Avalon Inn is now a distributor of the mattresses; hotel guests, if they like their bed, can order a BedInABox mattress there.

Among the features available to guests upon completion of the first phase is an expanded fitness room equipped with “the best of the best” in exercise equipment, Klingle says, from manufacturers including Hoist Fitness and Precor. Treadmills and other equipment will have cable television and the Internet hooked into it.

Locker rooms are being redone and expanded, with wooden lockers that will allow visitors to punch in personal codes to lock and unlock them. Other features of the fitness area are rooms for yoga and personal training.

The indoor pool, once it reopens, will be a regulation Junior Olympic pool. The pool that had been there was filled and then jackhammered out before the new one was installed.

“In the wintertime it rained in this room,” as the water vapor resulting from the humidity in the pool area condensed on the ceiling, Klingle says. “The smell that came from this room was horrible, and the smell permeated the entire hotel.”

Both the temperature of the pool itself and the swimming area now are regulated from an adjacent mechanical room.

The floor around the pool is inlaid with tiles of cut coral brought in from Florida and the Dominican Republic. “It’s probably the most perfect surface for an indoor swimming pool that you can possibly have,” Klingle says.

Other areas being redone in the first phase of the $20 million project are the kitchen and restaurant areas and the main ballroom.

One discovery in the ballroom was that guests, who had found a gap between the crown
molding and the suspended ceiling from which the chandelier hung, would toss chicken wing bones into the gap.

“Four barrels full of chicken wings,” Klingle remarks.

Future additions to the property include salons and spas, additional conference capabilities to accommodate increased efforts to attract conference business, and three or four more swimming pools, including two resort pools.

The third phase, which Klingle hopes to begin by the end of the year, includes “probably the most special thing that we put into the entire complex, including all of our facilities,” a Roman bath open to the air above that would be open year round.

The last Roman bath done well was at the Hotel Gellert in Budapest, Hungary, according to Klingle, “and we’re going to try to come close to duplicating what they’ve done there.”

Sekanick calls the Roman bath “a pretty neat idea” because they are so rare. It augments Klingle’s concept to repurpose the hotel and rebuild it as the Avalon Inn. “He’s taking advantage of what people remember about it and making it a special destination,” Klingle says.

The first two phases will run about $15 million, Klingle estimates. “When we finish with Phase 3, the total cost will probably be in the neighborhood of $20 million,” he says.

“When you combine that with all the assets that we have at the other country clubs and the many, many millions of dollars that we’ve put into each of them, the amenities that we’re going to offer our guests are truly second to none in the country,’ he declares.

The hotel has remained open during the renovation but hasn’t promoted what’s being done there, something that will change, Klingle says.

“We’ve had certain events that had already been scheduled here with rooms associated with each one of them,” he says. “We’ve kept the facility open to accommodate them, but we really haven’t attempted to get any new business because we really weren’t ready for it.

“But as of today, we have half of the rooms completely redone, all of the banquet facilities are finished, the pool’s almost done, the fitness center is done,” Klingle continues. “It’s ready to go and we’re ready to begin marketing the facility to try to increase our occupancy.”

The goal of the renovation is to make the Youngstown-Warren area a destination where people will vacation.

Outside marketing efforts will target Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Toronto, he reports.

When Avalon Holdings bought Avalon Lakes 25 years ago, he learned about 40% of the business at the golf course – and about the same as the Avalon Inn’s – came from Toronto. The response for summer bookings for golf and travel has been “incredible,” he reports.

“As a result of being able to combine all of our operations under one seamless umbrella, we will be able to offer hotel guests the ability to have all of our country club amenities that we offer,” Klingle says.

Likewise, the amenities being put into the Avalon Inn will be made available to members of Avalon Holdings’ country clubs.

“When you put everything together, I think we’re creating a package, a group of amenities at this facility, that will be unequalled anywhere in the eastern United States at least, maybe most of the country,” Klingle says. “We’re going to offer some amenities that I think are going to be very, very special.”

Pictured: Ron Klingle says the new Avalon Inn will enable members of his Avalon golf clubs to enjoy extra amenities.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.