December might have marked the end of 2019 for most everyone, but for those at the new avid hotel in Monona, it was just the beginning.
Open for business almost two months now, the staff of 18 full- and part-time employees is quickly settling in and welcoming visitors on a regular basis.
“Going back to this brand team, they are excited, and they breathe that excitement, said Jordan Steward, general manager. “‘What are you avid about? What are we avid about?’ We’re avid about taking care of our guests each and every day. We just want to create an experience.”
For Steward, that experience begins with the lobby of the 92-room, five-story hotel. It’s new, but it’s not just the newness that gives off a clean, minimalist look. There’s a variety of seating options surrounding the breakfast area.
“I call these activation zones, because there are so many different areas within this lobby,” Steward said.
There are spaces for families to gather to watch TV, seating for children and TV viewing, high-top chairs and tables for two-person meetings, room to play cards and even a section where people can gather to prepare for a business presentation.
“The biggest thing everybody wants – plugs,” Steward said. “There’s actually something for everybody.”
Reducing collateral and unnecessary items in guest rooms means no coffee pots or ice buckets in each room, but the 24-hour bean-to-cup coffee in the lobby and disposable, help-yourself ice buckets replaces them.
A hot water machine takes care of the needs for those who want tea, still and sparkling water are available all the time, and hot and continental breakfast items start out the day.
“If gives that person, if they want to stay here, hang out and have breakfast, have their hot item, or they can take it on the run with them,” said Steward, a Sun Prairie resident who has been in the hospitality business for about a decade.
There is also a market area with soda, iced coffee, energy drinks, upgraded sandwiches and frozen items that are separate purchases.
“It’s all day, all night, come as you will,” he said. “The way the brand really thought about, and when they went through trying to specific about who our customer demographic really is, it was all about everything they needed and nothing that they didn’t.”
The fitness center is open 24 hours a day, and the ellipticals, treadmills and bike are connected to the internet. Kettlebells, free weights and yoga mats are also available.
The rooms themselves continue the minimalist vibe.
“The way that these guest rooms were created were for the sleep experience,” Steward said.
Headboards are built into the wall, there are no drawers or closet doors to slam shut, bathrooms are stacked from floor to floor to minimize noise, hangers and hooks are throughout the room, a desk area is built into the wall, and bathroom mirrors are backlit.
“There’s really nothing on the floor. We have the tile in here. It’s that white, it’s that clean, it’s that crisp,” Steward said.
“Probably the final and really the signature section of this room are the blackout curtain that completely blacks out the room,” Steward added. “It actually has its own hanging device that it will actually sit in, so it will completely black out the room.”
The avid hotel, located at 900 W. Broadway in Monona, is a new brand from Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG).
It is situated within the Yahara Commons development at Bridge Road and West Broadway.
The area is not new to Steward. Born in Abbotsford in central Wisconsin, he and his family often visited relatives in the area, because his mother grew up in Reedsburg in Sauk County.
“We were a Badger family,” he said. “I felt like Madison and the greater Dane County community was almost more home than where I grew up.”
Steward received his bachelor’s degree in hospitality management at UW-Stout and started as waterpark manager in Wisconsin Dells.
Later, he operated a waterpark in Minneapolis and then decided to pursue hotel management.
He has worked at the Holiday Express in Verona, opened the Holiday Express on John Nolen Drive and worked at the Hilton in downtown Madison.
“For me, it’s been nothing but a fun ride,” Steward said, “and continues to be.”