A Journey of Rediscovery

Saskatoon’s Park Town Hotel

Situated on the South Saskatchewan River, the city of Saskatoon remains one of Canada’s most historic and unique cities, known internationally for the friendliness of its citizens and the beauty of its surroundings…

As the most populous city in the province, Saskatoon prides itself on academic institutions such as the University of Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Sciences and Education, numerous art galleries and museums, spectacular provincial parks, and businesses ranging from oil and gas to livestock, uranium, potash, agricultural biotechnology, science and technology, and more.

With a rapidly growing economy, the city of Saskatoon has become a popular destination for vacationing families and corporate travelers alike, and the Park Town Hotel Saskatoon continues its decades-long tradition of providing superior service to guests from across Canada and around the world.

“The biggest advantage we have over all the other hotels is the component of value that we can offer,” says Darryl Caudle. Recently completing his first year as General Manager Park Town Hotel Saskatoon, the 47-year-old Caudle has amassed decades of experience in the hotel industry – including years working for the Sheraton chain – and is enjoying the variety that comes from working for an independent, family-owned and operated boutique-style hotel. Unlike the large hotel chains, the Park Town is unencumbered by various levels of bureaucracy and does not have to cover the same advertising budgets, costly loyalty points programs, or other promotions. As a result, costs are lower and savings are passed onto guests staying at the hotel.

“Whatever we do, we can make really quick decisions and we are flexible,” says Mr. Caudle. “There is no large parent company overseeing us. Everything we do affects ourselves, so therefore our costs are way lower and we can offer tremendous value when compared to the bigger players.” Offering the same amenities as the bigger hotels in Saskatoon, the Park Town has the warmth and personalized service that comes with a family-led operation and over half a century of quality.

Family Owned and Operated

In the process of renovating and redeveloping the Park Town, the hotel is also promoting its future through its past and having guests rediscover the property. Ideally situated on the South Saskatchewan River, the 172 room hotel has a tongue-in-cheek online advertising campaign and signage promoting its many amenities. “We may not have a loyalty program, but we offer value instead,” states one; another reads, “Our pool and fitness centre may not be the biggest, but our jogging path goes for miles.”

Back in the 1950s, the notion of a new hotel in Saskatoon was conceived by brothers August (Gus) and Peter Verbeke. Investors in a hotel in the south-central Saskatchewan city of Moose Jaw, the two were interested in establishing another hotel, this time in their home town. Along with considerable business experience, the Verbeke family was firmly rooted in construction, which saw their father Jules working in the industry prior to emigrating from Belgium to Canada in the early 1900s, where he worked on a number of prestigious construction projects, including the University Bridge in 1915.

Looking for the ideal location, the brothers envisioned a new hotel on picturesque Spadina Crescent. When a large lot with incredible views of the South Saskatchewan River came up for sale in 1957, Gus – along with long-time neighbour and friend Earl Bowman – seized the business opportunity. To fund their vision, investors were needed, so the brothers created a company which saw Gus and Peter as owners of one portion of the shares, along with their siblings Mary, Afra, and Cyril. With financing in hand, construction commenced through Gus and Peter’s construction company, Verbeke’s Ltd., and in 1958, the Park Town Motor Hotel was open for business.

Over the years, the “little motel on Spadina” continued to grow, and as nearby lots came up for sale, the company bought them. The rationale proved to be a wise one. In 1973, the original group of investors was prepared to sell their stake in the Park Town, and the decision was made for brothers Peter and Gus to purchase the entire hotel. “The reason why I wanted it so badly was because I figured it was a really good idea to expand it,” said the late Gus Verbeke, who kept true to his word and continued to purchase as many adjacent properties as possible, sometimes at an inflated price. He was persistent, and with the last piece of property in hand, the brothers created another investment group in 1976 and set about making significant expansions, such as an indoor pool and an increase in the room count to 109. The creation of a specially strengthened foundation over the hotel’s underground parking would, years later, lead to the construction of the Parkville Manor in 2004.

A proud, family-owned business, the Park Town saw Gus’s first son, Terry, take over as the hotel’s General Manager in 1990. Almost a decade later, an additional 65 rooms were added to the Park Town, boasting some of the finest views of the South Saskatchewan River in the city.

Upgrades and Additions

Today, the Park Town Hotel remains a family-owned and operated business 55 years after it first opened its doors to guests. Not one to rest on its reputation, the hotel has undergone a number of significant renovations, the most recent being this year’s restoration of the entire main floor space including the lobby, front desk, business centre, elevators, restaurants, washrooms, and catering space, along with the creation of a new lounge area.

Fortunately, Mr. Caudle’s many years of experience came through, as all work was successfully carried out while the hotel remained in operation. “We spent considerable time coordinating everything to minimize any potential customer issues and to maintain a revenue stream during the process,” he says.

In addition, the seven storey hotel is in the process of completing work on 39 river-facing premium guest rooms, fitted with king-sized Park Town Dream Beds with triple sheeting and duvet covers. “The premium rooms have fantastic views and amenities, including more desk space and lounging chairs,” comments Mr. Caudle. “It is the view that really sells the property, and we have to take advantage of that view so we can bring in a premium room type.” A number of other recent facelifts include improvements to the fitness centre, which will have its own cooled room and is aimed primarily at fitness / corporate guests, while the pool is focused more on leisure guests. All work is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2013.

A Range of Amenities

At the Park Town Hotel, guests are able to take advantage of a diverse number of services and amenities to ensure that their stay is pleasant and, for business travelers, productive. In addition to Presidential and Executive suites, the Park Town offers a Business Computer Centre, fast and free WiFi, concierge and dry-cleaning services, and much more. Many hotels offer shuttle services, but the Park Town has gone a step further with a shuttle that takes guests to the airport, to meetings, and even downtown to do some shopping. “A lot of others will just take you to the airport – we will do that, too – but we will also take you to your hospital appointment, shopping, wherever you need to go,” says Mr. Caudle. “There is no cost in that. It is a great convenience, and that is definitely one thing we do that makes us different.” Other amenities, like iPod docking stations, high-definition flat screen televisions, Keurig coffee machines, an expanded business centre, and oversized business desks are able to meet the need of any corporate guest.

“The price point that we can offer a company would be much more affordable than down the street,” comments Mr. Caudle. “As long as you’re not a point collector, and you take a little walk around here, I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to stay at the Park Town. We are a smaller, more boutique-style hotel, and we have everything that a corporate customer would be looking for.”

At the Park Town, guests can enjoy not only best in class rooms, the fitness centre, pools, and the business centre; they are also able to hold catered meetings, weddings, parties and other events in one of the hotel’s meeting rooms. With almost 10,000 square feet of meeting space, the Park Town can accommodate up to 200 guests in any one room. For special occasions or all-day business meetings, the hotel can provide food and beverages aimed to please any palate. Known for its great comfort food, the hotel has hired a team of Red Seal chefs who purchase local, organic, in-season products whenever possible, and has expanded its menu to cater to corporate guests at its Four Seasons Restaurant, Riverside Lounge, Finns Irish Pub, or through room service meals. Working with a high-end design and rental company, the hotel regularly serves as a venue for weddings in the summer, and hosts the Laugh Shop comedy club at other times during the year.

With a staff of long-term team players, Mr. Caudle says he is grateful to work with others who are not only professionals, but are outgoing and friendly. “When I’m building a team, that’s exactly what I’m looking for,” he says. “I always hire someone who has a good attitude. We can train for the job any day. Experience is great if you have it, but it’s not necessarily what we’re looking for; it’s that personality we want.”

As renovations to the Park Town approach completion, Mr. Caudle is optimistic about the hotel’s future. “We have an awesome opportunity for expansion on our own land, and the future is very bright,” he says. “We’re moving our bar up and we’re competing for some of the same business, and we’ll gladly be there to show our product. From our rooms, the view is honestly the best in the city, hands-down.”

June 4, 2020, 10:31 PM EDT