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Ramada Inn Sold

July 08, 1999|By BRENDAN KIRBY

Two companies bought the Hagerstown Ramada Inn & Convention Center on Thursday and pledged to undertake $1.5 million in renovations at the hotel.

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Annapolis-based Magna Hotel Associates joined Gladstone, N.J.-based Knickerbocker LLC in buying the property. They would not reveal how much they paid.

The sale will not affect the hotel's 160 employees, officials said.

The companies said they plan to immediately launch a renovation program to refurbish the rooms, improve the corridors and upgrade the meeting space. They also will have landscaping work done.

"I just really love this part of the country," said Bill Burruss, president of Magna Hospitality Group, the hotel management arm of Magna Hotel Associates.

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"I think the whole area has experienced growth," he said.

Burruss owns 10 other hotels across the country and was president of a company that owned, managed or marketed more than 100 hotels in four countries.

Knickerbocker LLC is a private investment and venture capital group with interests in hotels, real estate and shopping centers.

Burruss said he has passed through Frederick, Md., and Hagerstown for the last 20 years on his way to ski and shop and has watched the area grow.

He said the Ramada presents a unique opportunity because it is one of the few hotels with government-approved meeting space and training facilities.

The convention center can accommodate groups of up to 1,500 people.

The sale comes at a time when the local hotel industry is in the midst of something of a boom.

The Venice Inn was sold last year, a Microtel Inn is under construction off Interstate 81 in Maugansville and construction of an 83-room Hampton Inn is planned.

"If I was buying just a regular hotel, I might be concerned. But the Ramada Inn sits in its own category," Burruss said.

Hagerstown resident Frank Turner purchased the property off Dual Highway in 1978.

"Mr. Turner is at that stage that he wanted to sell. We're excited for him," said Jim Kell, the hotel's general manager. "It's wonderful for everybody."

Turner added 50 rooms in 1981 and built the convention center a year later, Kell said. In 1985, he added a five-story, 50-room tower.

Turner added government and corporate meeting rooms in 1990 and 1998 and opened the Barracuda Surf Bar in 1993, according to Kell.

The Ramada now has 212 rooms and 30,000 square feet of meeting space.

"He's been busy," Kell said. "He just had a good vision."

Kell called the sale a "well-planned, very smooth transition."

Local economic development officials hailed the deal as another sign of the region's healthy economy.

"The reason that this property was looked at was because of all the economic growth and activity," said Thomas B. Riford, the marketing director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission.

"People are looking at us. This is definitely a good area to expand business into," Hagerstown Economic Development Coordinator Deborah Everhart said.

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