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What Happens When a Professional Sports Team Takes Over a Hotel?

Where: 151 West Adams Street [map], Chicago, IL, United States
July 10, 2013 at 2:42 PM | by | ()

Being big sports fans ourselves, we' ve always wondered--what happens when a professional sports team takes over a hotel? Do they get to stay in the biggest suites? Can they order whatever they want through room service? Do they have to pay for WiFi? Are they walking around naked, er, are they paying $4 for that Snickers bar? We finally got some some insider details on what goes down when players are up...in the guest rooms and in short, the answers to these questions are: no, no, no and no.

The JW Marriott Chicago recently hosted the Chicago Blackhawks during the Stanley Cup Champsionships. (Yes, even players who have homes in Chicago were required to stay at the hotel.) Steve Conklin, director of sales and marketing, told us the Blackhawks team, including players, coaches and trainers, took up about 35 of the hotel's 610 hotel rooms. Football teams usually take about 160-200 rooms, according to Conklin.

Naturally, when it comes to hotel rooms, our first question was this: Do they have to share a room? Conklin said that only a few of the guys, namely the rookies and whoever are "buddies" share a room. The rest get their own rooms with a king-sized bed. And no matter how big the superstar, the players all get standard rooms, not suites. Of course, it helps when the hotel, like the JW Marriott, is a luxury hotel and is tricked out with all the right amenities from technology to comfort to the all-important 24-hour room service. Not that the players can take advantage of it though.

During a championship series like the Stanley Cup, room service is usually not an option for players since they are eating their specially prepared meals with the team. If they do order room service, alcohol is a strict no-no. Like, the hotel is actually not allowed to serve them alcohol through room service, even if they order it. The hotel also has to remove all alcohol from the room (at the JW Marriott there is a full-sized bottle of wine out for guests) and from the in-room minibar. In fact, the entire minibar is on lockdown when a team is staying at the hotel. So no, they are not paying $4 for a Snickers bar. Oh and no turndown chocolates either.

That said, the hotel does accommodate other healthier meal requests. Well, "healthy" may not be the right word. For football players, Conklin said, "It's all about protein with the NFL. It's all meat and a little pasta. They can 1,000 chicken wings in a sitting. You gotta have wings and ice cream." But for hockey players, they actually do eat healthy. "Salmon, sea bass, salad and a little bit of chicken," Conklin said of the Blackhawks' meal plans.

The hotel also blended up special green drinks for the Blackhawks made with parsley, baby spinach, kale, arugula, carrot or apple juice and some flax oil, all organic of course. The new drink of champions, eh?

Despite putting the players in regular rooms, locking up the minibar, and denying them booze and turndown chocolates, the hotel does make some special requests for the pros. Conklin said his hotel will place a special refrigerator on the players' floors, filled with their drinks of choice from Gatorade to Pedialyte to pickle juice, which the Blackhawks used to keep away the muscle cramps.

However, the team coaches and owners, who are always placed on a different floor from the players, can get special requests delivered to their room. Conklin said one coach requested two bottles of IPA beers to be waiting in his room when he checked in. Others have requested more standard fare like Diet Dr. Pepper or a bottle of wine. Although one did request a treadmill be brought into the suite, even though the hotel has a fitness facility downstairs. Guess he didn't want anyone to see him sweat.

As for the WiFi, Conklin said most teams are using iPads these days as playbooks so having a strong and fast internet network is really important when a sports team is at the hotel. Not to mention, the players already have their own iPads and smartphones so plenty of bandwidth is important too. While the JW Marriott charges $14.95 a day for internet, this is obviously waived for the players (or just charged back to the sports team.)

And while sports teams don't cause the same kind of commotion as say, overrated tween pop stars, they do draw the usual set of die-hard fanboys and groupies so security is a necessity during their stay. Conklin said most teams bring in their own security detail but the hotel helps where it's needed. There are guards on the players' floors and the team uses different elevators, different doors and even a different entrance from other hotel guests. The team will also take their own precautions to keep their players in check. Conklin mentioned that one team put alarms on the hotel's stairwell doors to keep players from sneaking out after the nightly bedcheck.

No booze, no room service, no minibar and now bedcheck? That doesn't sound like a fun hotel stay. But Conklin puts it another way, "This is a business trip for the players because this is their business. They are here to get in, get their business done and leave." Well at least they don't have to check-out and send a copy of the hotel folio to their boss.

[Photos: Cynthia Drescher for HotelChatter]

Archived Comments:


In the first hotel I worked, we had a number of teams from various sports stay with us. It can be very lucrative, especially for the Catering Department. Team meals were served in our ballroom. Protein, protein, protein. Then some more protein.

Security is a big deal, too. With the exception of New Year's Eve, the only time we ever required people to show a room key before getting in the elevator was when a team was in house. In my experience, the teams weren't worried about fans. Rather, it was fans from the opposing team. (One pulled fire alarm at 3am can disrupt the sleep of an entire team.)

Great write up

and very informative.

Maybe they will buy the hotel

Well Recently Andy Murray just bought a hotel and now has a business plan. So who know that the hotel in which these stars stay might on day own it. :) Nice article... Regards, Jatin - www.mghworld.net

Barca in Slovakia

Recently the Barcelona team played a European champions league game in Slovakia. They booked out a top class 5 star hotel and the health spa for a few days before and after the game, the spa facilities were open and available around the clock and the team manager even managed to get the local majors office to turn off the PA system for the entire village so that the players weren't disturbed. Excellent article
- www.prosportshotels.com