Red Lion enters Walla Walla market

A downtown motel will become a Red Lion Inn & Suites by the end of the year.

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WALLA WALLA ­­— Downtown motel Walla Walla Vineyard Inn is undergoing a transformation into a Red Lion Inn & Suites, officials say.

Spokane-based Red Lion Hotels Corp. announced this morning it will move into the “heart” of Washington wine country through a makeover at the existing 80-room motel at 325 E. Main St.

“This particular property is located in historic downtown Walla Walla where many fantastic wine tasting rooms and fabulous restaurants are located,” said Ron Burgett, Red Lion’s executive vice president of lodging and brand development, in the release.

Corporate communications manager Pam Scott was not immediately available for comment this morning.

The corporation will apparently work with the property’s existing owner to operate the brand.

Bakulesh “Buggsi” Patel, owner of Wilsonville, Ore.,-based BHG Hotels, also owns the Red Lion Hotel Portland Airport as part of his interest in more than 20 hotels in eight states.

“Based on our experience with Red Lion, we think it is the right brand for this hotel,” Patel said in a prepared statement.

The changeover will bring a positive brand image to the hotel, said Downtown Walla Walla Foundation Executive Director Elio Agostini.

“Red Lion has such a wonderful name. How good for the community that it’s coming,” he said.

That move, plus the pending construction of the Marriott at Ninth Avenue and Rose Street, may be signs of growth for the community, he said.

The Red Lion Inn & Suites model is one of three brands under the corporate umbrella. This particular brand is “designed for the traveler on the go. Inns offer streamlined services,” according to an online description.

The transition to a Red Lion is expected to be complete before the end of the year.

The hotel is in the midst of a complete renovation that includes a new breakfast room and lobby, updated guest rooms, a fitness center and a new whirlpool area.

According to records with the Walla Walla County Assessor’s Office, BHG has owned the property since 2007, when it made the purchase for about $2.2 million.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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