The motel once considered a landmark for visitors who came to Hays to shop or attend an event soon will see its last days.
The Ambassador Hotel, also known as the Ramada Inn and before that the Holiday Inn, has developed structural problems, and the new owners, Andy Werth and Emery Jennings — partners in the firm Werth and Jennings LLC — plan to demolish the hotel at 3603 Vine. The 5.4 acres the motel sat on will be sold for commercial development.
A closing date on the sale is set for Dec. 1 on the motel, which has about 200 rooms.
“We’re excited about the project,” Jennings said. “Our plans are for immediately after closing to get the property razed.
“I consider it a Hays landmark. When it was the Holiday Inn, it was a Hays landmark,” Jennings said. “A lot of people remember it as a gathering place — as a meeting place.
“It certainly was for me. I stayed there many times in its heyday.”
The hotel once accommodated major events and conventions.
“It’s a very desirable project being south of the interstate,” Jennings said. “These are the only lots that are for sale south of Interstate 70 on Vine.”
Werth said he is excited to keep this project moving forward as he believes this is one of top interchange locations from Topeka to Denver.
Aaron White, executive director for the Ellis County Coalition for Economic Development, and Ernee Sly, office manager for ECCED, introduced the project to the partners in March.
“The building has a lot of issues. It has a problem meeting building codes and safety codes,” White said. “The expense to renovate would exceed the value of what you could build new. It will provide prime development options.”
White said new companies are looking at building on ground that does not have an existing building.
They already have been contacted by several people who are interested in purchasing the lots when they become available for sale, which they anticipate to be sold in four to five lots, Jennings said. There are no plans to lease the lots.
“There are just so few spaces on Vine Street that facilitate that,” he said.
Jennings and Werth are looking at a local contractor to do the demolition, which will be a major project.
The one downside to the project is that it will leave the city in need of more hotel rooms.
“I think there is room to add hotel space based on one or two indicators,” White said. “The primary one is blackout nights: we currently have about 50 blackout nights each year when all of the hotel rooms are booked.
“This occurs around Fort Hays State University events, state tournaments, etc.,” he said. “A general rule of thumb is that 30 or more blackout nights is an indication that a community could use more hotel rooms.”
For 42 years, Jennings has been in real estate development in Kansas, Colorado, Arizona and California. He also owns a real estate company with a partner, Rural American Realty, in Colorado selling farm, ranch and commercial property. He grew up in Oakley but lives in Hays now after some time in other states.
Werth has lived in Hays all of his life and owns commercial property in this community. He owns Andy’s Mudd and Chemical Co., an oil field business.
The two have worked together on a project before.
“I do understand commercial real estate,” Jennings said.