Above: Innkeeper Stacey Patch in the living area in one of the guest rooms at The Sherwood's Inn at Riverview. Photo by Robert Cairns.
To help ease an accommodations crunch in the midst of a Catskills tourism boom, buildings that house SUNY Delhi students during the academic year are being refitted as hotel rooms during the summer.
“The Sherwood's Inn at Riverview” is the name given to the summer venture at the Riverview Townhouses, an off-campus housing development operated by the college.
Joel Smith, the vice president for college relations and advancement, said that a private corporation was formed to rent four units at Riverview as a “hotel or bed-and-breakfast-type operation.” Under the arrangement, the corporation leases the rooms from the college and rents them to short-term guests.
Smith said the move was in response to the SUNY 2020 and StartUp NY programs – state initiatives to use SUNY campuses to spur economic development in their communities. Specifically, he said, the project recognizes a lack of guest lodging in the area, especially for the growing wedding industry.
“This destination wedding thing is really big now,” Smith said. He said that Riverview is attractive to that market because the units, with six bedrooms and common living and kitchen areas, appeal to traveling families. He also expects the units to get use from “stay and play” travel packages that include use of the nearby College Golf Course.
To make the rooms ready for summer guests, the student furnishings were removed and replaced with hotel-quality amenities, including furniture, towels and more. The kitchens are fully equipped. The units also feature central air conditioning, cable television and queen-sized beds.
Above: Buildings which are used as SUNY student housing most of the year have been transformed into guest accommodations in Delhi. Image via thesherwoodsinn.com.
Smith emphasized that the plan was developed “to try to help meet this identified need” and not to compete with existing lodging businesses. He added, “We don't expect it to be a big revenue producer.”
He also emphasized, “This is not being subsidized by the state,” and said that any profits from the venture will “ultimately assist students at the college.”
While the housing project is tax-exempt, Smith said the new corporation is working with Delhi assessors to create a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) program to share some of the proceeds with the community. Town of Delhi Supervisor Mark Tuthill confirmed that there have been talks, but said, “I haven't seen an official agreement.”
While the venture got a late start in its first year, Smith said that it is expected the inn will operate from Memorial Day weekend through Aug. 15, when the rooms will be refitted for students.
There is room for expansion of the program at the facility, which normally houses 120 students, but Smith says no decisions on expansion have been made. “We have to see how it goes this summer,” he said. He also said such decisions will depend upon “what happens in the local market.” More capacity from other providers, he said, would have an impact on plans for Riverview.
Mary Beth Silano, executive director of the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce, said that the wedding business is booming in the region and that SUNY Delhi's contribution to guest accommodations is a big help.
“When they said they were going to open this, we were so grateful,” Silano said.
Speaking about the wedding business in Delaware County, she said, “It's got to be over $10 million annually.” She listed wedding venues in Roxbury, Andes, Meredith, Delhi and Hancock, among others, and said, “Everybody's getting into the wedding business.”
The growth of the industry, however, has highlighted the lack of places for guests to stay in the Catskills.
“I just wish we had more accommodations,” Silano said, adding that the Riverview project “will help tremendously.” She said other businesses are benefiting from weddings.
“It's going to have a trickle-down effect,” she said. “The more weddings we can get, the more people will be in the restaurants and accommodations,” she said. Transportation companies, caterers, florists, photographers and gas stations also stand to benefit, she said.
Silano said that the Delaware County Chamber promotes Delaware County as a wedding destination on its website, www.greatwesterncatskills.com, and that state tourism officials view weddings as “a huge industry.”
Stacey Patch, an instructor in the hospitality program at SUNY Delhi as well as a graduate of the program, is the innkeeper for The Sherwoods Inn at Riverview.
“It's been good so far. We've had a good response,” Patch said. “I'm the lucky one who gets to pilot it.”