A top-to-bottom refit for Tampa Marriott Waterside hotel

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A newly refreshed room at the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina.
A newly refreshed room at the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina.

Tampa is booming. A peek at the city's skyline out the window of the 17-story Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina in the Water Street neighborhood reveals a flurry of construction activity around the city center, with cranes competing for sky space as announcements for new high-rise, luxury condos and hotel projects surface.

The recently completed Riverwalk sustains a constant flow of leisure pedestrians and is undergoing expansion. The Water Street area will be home to new JW Marriott and Edition hotels, the latter being the area's first five-star property. As far as tourism, the city might play second fiddle to its beachside sister St. Petersburg, but Tampa is establishing itself as an entertainment, sports and culinary destination all its own.

The Tampa Marriott Waterside, currently undergoing a major renovation project, has stood as a 17-story sentinel for conventioneers and sports enthusiasts, situated smack-dab between the Amalie Arena, where the Tampa Bay Lightning NHL team is currently making a run for the Stanley Cup, and the grand Tampa Bay Convention Center. With the updates, though, the hotel stands to make itself a gathering place for locals as well as a touchpoint for tourists looking to be right in the middle of the action.

The multiphase, $40 million project began in the fall of last year, and the 719 guestrooms were the first areas to be touched by the redesign. In fact, with the changes, the final room count will grow to 727 rooms by the time the renovation is completed in late 2018. On upper floors facing the bay, guests can even see out to Harbor Island and the sprawling mansion that former New York Yankees' star (and current Florida Marlins' owner) Derek Jeter calls home.

The timing was right for the bayfront hotel when it comes to the room refit. Only six other Marriott-brand hotels in the world flaunt a special floor called StayWell, and because the timing lined up for the Tampa property, the 15th floor is now a designated as such.

The floor itself features a dedicated air-purification system, and housekeepers use all-natural, organic cleaners when they service the rooms. Inside each feather-free guestroom is a Tempurpedic mattress, which gets replaced more often than other mattresses in the hotel. Other amenities include an aromatherapy diffuser, circadian rhythm alarm clock, five different lighting schematics (including a fun, fuschia mood lighting scheme called Play), an air purifier and a shower head outfitted with a water purifier. If guests really love the experience, they can purchase any of these amenities to incorporate into their own homes. Staying in a StayWell room adds only $40 per room to the hotel's regular nightly rate, so for more health- and allergy-conscious clients, the upgrade may be well worth it.

Next up for a refresh: the lobby and restaurants. The relaunch of the dining spaces, especially the new double-sided lobby bar, which will blend into an oyster bar and chophouse on the outdoor veranda, will create a seamless transition from the indoor lobby to the outside spaces. Champions Sports Bar, which serves as a reliable pregame warm-up spot for fans heading across the street to the arena, will be rebranded as a gastropub and expanded to include outdoor seating and street access.

The Tampa Marriott Waterside's biggest selling feature is what you'd expect: location. Primarily, the hotel flaunts direct access to the Riverwalk. The Riverwalk connects the Marriott with the convention center, Straz Center for the Performing Arts, playgrounds and green spaces and the Tampa Museum of Art and currently ends at the Tampa culinary world's most exciting spot, Armature Works, a 13-stall food hall and event space built from the renovated TECO trolley-car operations building in Tampa Heights.

Walkers and cyclists traverse the Riverwalk regularly, but public water-transportation options are also available, including the Kraken Cycleboats and the Pirate Water Taxi, which runs every hour from stations alongside the Channelside District, Riverwalk, Harbour Island, and Davis Island.

As the Water Street area grows, the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina will remain the only Marriott property of the brand's three Tampa hotels to be located directly on the water, so it will still have that as a prime selling point, along with its 32-slip marina, soon-to-be-expanded fitness center and its rooftop pool overlooking the water. While more luxurious Marriott offerings are on deck for the area, the Tampa Marriott Waterside's niche is firmly carved in the ever-rising skyline. 

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