Carrie Rengers

Doo-Dah has starring role in hotel rebranding

The former Quality Inn Downtown near Via Christi Hospital St. Francis briefly became the Downtown Wichita Inn this summer. Now it’s undergoing rebranding to become 316 Hotel #theDooDah. (Dec. 5, 2016)
The former Quality Inn Downtown near Via Christi Hospital St. Francis briefly became the Downtown Wichita Inn this summer. Now it’s undergoing rebranding to become 316 Hotel #theDooDah. (Dec. 5, 2016) The Wichita Eagle

If you’ve been anywhere near Via Christi Hospital St. Francis recently, it’s hard not to notice the new paint job on the former Quality Inn Downtown at 1011 N. Topeka.

That’s just what Doug Gamble intended.

The bright orange, gold and blue are “just to kind of get people’s attention.”

“It was a gray concrete building sitting in a massive parking lot,” he says. Gamble says he could have left it a gray box. “Or do you want to do something kind of fun and funky?”

There are some LED lights to come, along with lights on the hotel’s trees “to really give it a nice presence.”

“The whole idea, especially at night, was to have the thing stand out.”

Gamble has been buying hotels around his native Kansas City since 2003. Two and a half years ago, he and Mike Lawsky, a fraternity brother, formed GLI Hospitality to create hotels branded around the cities they’re in.

Since they purchased the Quality Inn, it’s been known as Downtown Wichita Inn. Now, they’re in the process of rebranding it 316 Hotel #theDooDah for the local area code and for the nickname Wichita has had for years.

“We just wanted a name that really represents something kind of cool and local,” Gamble says.

“It’s really cool, by the way,” he says of the Doo-Dah name. “You just can’t come up with something like that even if you paid somebody.”

Gamble and Lawsky first purchased the former Holiday Inn Express in Westport in Kansas City and renamed it 816 Hotel #KCexperience.

“So I had this idea to do a hotel dedicated to Kansas City,” he says. “That started the concept.”

It included themed rooms around various Kansas City institutions.

“Almost every guest comments on those,” Gamble says.

About 20 of 316 Hotel’s 55 rooms will have themes as well, such as a Wichita State University room and an aviation-themed room. The hallways will have murals of old Wichita photos and landmarks.

“My specialty is marketing of hotels,” Gamble says. “Most hotel owners are dependent on things like franchises to get them business.”

He says the internet created another option. Facebook and Instagram are big tools for him.

“We focus on hotels that don’t necessarily need a franchise.”

GLI has hotels in Overland Park and Omaha as well.

Gamble says GLI will use Kansas City as a base for the concept “and just kind of have some spokes going out” to other places.

He says 316 Hotel will serve Wichita coffee and feature work by local artists. It also will offer packages with local restaurants and begin a free shuttle service “and just dig into the community pretty hard.”

The hotel also is getting an overhaul with new carpet and paint, window treatments, lights, bedding and lots of new furniture. Gamble says he’s removed a small workout facility to create a larger lobby where there will be free beer and wine for guests in the evening. He’s also changed out most of the heating and cooling.

Gamble expects most of the changes to be complete within the next couple of weeks.

“We’ll turn the sign lights on, and we’re off to the races.”

Carrie Rengers: 316-268-6340, @CarrieRengers

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