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Dunedin hotel for Toronto Blue Jays players gets $14M in financing

A Tampa company with more than 100 years of experience in the hospitality sector plays a key role in a major-league hotel project.


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As the Tampa Bay Rays continue to look for a new home around Tampa and St. Petersburg, one of the team’s top rivals on the field is doubling down in Dunedin.

The Toronto Blue Jays have committed to rent large blocks of rooms at a hotel being built mostly for the team to use during spring training and during the regular season when players are in town rehabbing and the minor leagues are playing.

The project has been in the works for some time, and Dunedin city officials approved the development.

Then, in late November, the hotel received a big boost from $14 million in financing arranged by Spirides Hotel Finance Co. The Tampa-based family owned and operated firm may not have a baseball pedigree, but it knows a thing or two about running hotels.

“It was just a deal that made really good financial sense,” says company president Harry G. Spirides. “I took it out to the capital markets, spoke to my contacts with major banks around the country and located a bank in the Midwest that was extremely interested in the project.”

As its name implies, Spirides Hotel Finance specializes in arranging financing and consulting with hoteliers. But it comes at its business from an insider’s perspective.

That’s because the family ran hotels in the South for about 100 years before Harry Spirides started the finance company six years ago. In fact, Spirides’ father George in 1970 helped a friend design and manage his first hotel. The friends name was Cecil B. Day and his Savannah, Georgia hotel was called the Day’s Inn.

Harry Spirides grew up like a lot of children raised in the hospitality business: he worked his way up from washing dishes, working as a desk clerk, managing properties and running the family’s the 205-room Ocean Plaza Beach Resort at Savannah Beach on Tybee Island, Georgia. 

The family owned the resort for 50 years and sold it in 2014 for a reported $13.54 million. Today it’s called the Hotel Tybee.

Today, the third-generation hotelier runs the finance company. Working with him are his mother, Frances, sister, Jeannie, and daughters Katie and Ava.

A part of him longs for the interactions with guests, especially the regulars, and the employees who worked for the family for years or even decades. “I miss that sometimes," he says. “But at the same time, now I can. I can use all my experiences to help other hoteliers.”

 

Double play 

Spirides Financial got involved with the Blue Jays hotel project in Dunedin after being introduced to its developer, Doug Anderson.

The idea for the hotel came soon after the Blue Jays built a $100 million, 65-acre player development complex in Dunedin that includes six fields, a covered practice field and batting cages, as well sports science labs, training rooms and other amenities inside a 115,000-square-foot building. Just a couple of miles away is the team’s 5,500-seat spring training and minor league stadium, TD Ballpark.

The team has held spring training in the Pinellas County city since 1977.

With the training complex complete, the team began looking for a place for its players to stay when they came town, whether to train, practice, play or get back in shape.

What Anderson, who runs Coastal ICF Construction Services Inc., came up with is a 90-room hotel on the Dunedin Causeway. The space will be mostly used by players, though there will be some room for the public.

The hotel itself will be two different buildings built on separate locations and in phases. According to a city staff report on the proposal, the hotel will be built at 491 Causeway Blvd. and 469 Causeway Blvd. The properties are adjoining and are a total of 1.6 acres. The top two floors of the complex will be for guests, while the ground floor will be for parking. 

Spirides says construction began earlier this year on the smaller of the two buildings, the Grant Street Inn, and work on the second, the J Hotel, will begin soon. Each will share standard amenities like a pool, dining area and fitness center along with upscale finishes, furnishings, security, and technology.

 

The J Hotel is on one of two buildings in Dunedin that will house Toronto Blue Jays players when they are in town to train or rehab. (Courtesy rendering)
The J Hotel is on one of two buildings in Dunedin that will house Toronto Blue Jays players when they are in town to train or rehab. (Courtesy rendering)

Base hit

Spirides got involved in the deal when he met Anderson. “Because we specialize in financing hotel projects nationwide, and we’re based here in the Tampa Bay area, we were introduced,” he says.

What followed was a months-long relationship that began with a long series of meetings while Spirides’ did his due diligence, asking about details, hunting down documentation on the transaction, looking at the developer’s financial capabilities and credit as well conducting feasibility studies.

Just because a Major League Baseball team was involved with the project, didn’t make it any easier to find the financing. On a national scale, the hotel financing sector is tightening, a byproduct of rising interest rates and recessionary worries. 

But it did help in one solid, unexpected way.

Spirides compares the Blue Jays’ involvement to the relationship airlines have with hotels near airports. With crews coming in and out every day, most airlines contract with hotels at airports for blocks of rooms negotiated at bulk rates. This guarantees fight crews rooms then need and provides hotel owners consistent revenue.

The deal the Blue Jays have with Anderson is similar in that the team has signed a contract guaranteeing and securing major blocks for years to come.  

Having the guaranteed revenue for a number of years helped banks get to yes faster.

What Spirides found for the developer is a construction-to-permanent mortgage financing package with a bank in the Midwest for 20 years at 1 point over prime.

“Really, at the end of the day,” he says. “It’s just a typical hotel development financing opportunity for banks and the fundamentals were there.”

 

author

Louis Llovio

Louis Llovio is the commercial real estate editor at the Business Observer. Before going to work at the Observer, the longtime business writer worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Maryland Daily Record and for the Baltimore Sun Media Group. He lives in Tampa.

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