Sunderland’s new Hilton hotel is ready to welcome the world after it was officially opened tonight.
The 141-bed facility, from the renowned chain’s Garden Inn range, had its ribbon cut by Mayor Coun Barry Curran at a star-studded opening night which was attended by SAFC manager Sam Allardyce as well as club legends Kevin Ball, Gary Bennett, Jimmy Montgomery, Micky Horswill and Dick Malone.
As well as its rooms the hotel, just yards from the Stadium of Light, includes the new Karbon grill restaurant, a 24-hour fitness suite and laundry room.
The Hilton brand currently operates more than 4,600 hotels worldwide, 45 of which are in Europe.
The type of Hilton built on Wearside is the only one of its kind open between Birmingham and Glasgow.
Guests have been staying at the hotel since Thursday last week.
“This is massive development not just for the football club but also for the city,” said Sunderland AFC commercial director Gary Hutchinson, who is also a director of the hotel.
“We are hosting two huge events this summer in this month’s England international and then the Beyonce concert, and we’re almost sold out for both events already.”
The hotel is the latest in a number to be built in the Sunderland area after planning chiefs identified a shortage of places for visitors to stay.
Irene Lucas, Sunderland City Council's chief executive, said: “Sunderland is a place that is changing and it’s changing very rapidly at the moment.
“Last year we had about 8.5 million visitors to the city.
“Many of them come to the Airshow and the concerts, and we have got the Tall Ships coming in 2018, while also hope to be City of Culture in 2021.
“Let’s hope lots of those visitors will use this hotel.”
Mark Nogal, Hilton’s regional head, focused service brand management, added: “The staff here have done a great job and are still getting their feet under the table a little bit.
“But they’ve made big strides in welcoming our guests to the hotel.
“We are extremely proud to be here in Sunderland.”
After cutting the ribbon, Coun Curran said: “We’ve had a tour and the rooms are just superb.
“It’s brilliant to see a brand with such credence in Sunderland.”
He added: “I’m sure visitors will be staying here for many years to come.”