People and Community Sports

Hyatt Regency Houston creates a home away from home for the Hurricanes

From an exterior overhang illuminated by orange and green lights to the ubiquitous U logo on the hotel’s entry doors and reception desks, the property—which is serving as the team hotel for the men’s basketball team, members of the Band of the Hour, cheerleaders, and other support staff—is all about the U.
Kelly Higginbotham and Elizabeth Garcia
Kelly Higginbotham and Elizabeth Garcia of the Hyatt Regency Houston. Photo: Mike Montero/University of Miami

HOUSTON, Texas—The four massive motor coaches pulled up in front of the Hyatt Regency in downtown Houston at 4 p.m. (CDT) on Wednesday, and as the players, coaches, and support staff of the Miami Hurricanes men’s basketball squad disembarked and walked into the hotel that would serve as their team headquarters during their stay in the city for the Final Four, they couldn’t help but feel right at home.

From the sliding glass entry doors to the check-in counters to a towering atrium, the 947-room, 30-floor hotel was adorned in all things U. 

“It was a joint effort between the Hyatt Regency, the NCAA, and the city of Houston,” Matthew Smale, executive associate athletics director of business operations said of the process that went into creating a home away from home for the Hurricanes. “The hotel’s done a fabulous job.”

It was a task undertaken and accomplished in a tight time window. After the Hurricanes defeated Texas 88-81 on Sunday, March 26, to advance to the first Final Four in the school’s history, Hyatt Regency Houston staff quickly started the transformation process to turn their hotel into ’Canes central. 

“The NCAA was a tremendous help, providing the University of Miami-themed decals and logos that are now on our windows, sliding doors, and check-in area” said Kelly Higginbotham, interim director of events at the Hyatt Regency Houston. “And they [the NCAA] did that for the other three Final Four team hotels in Houston.” 

She and her staff enhanced the décor package, installing orange and green lights to the property’s exterior overhang and adding an illuminated U logo to the sixth-floor balcony wall.

Check-in at the Hyatt Regency

“The feedback we’re getting has been tremendous,” Higginbotham said. “The administration and staff that traveled with the team have been blown away by what we’ve done.” In addition to the players, members of the University’s Frost Band of the Hour and cheerleaders are staying at the property.

But it’s more than exterior features the hotel had to consider for the team’s Houston stay. Higginbotham and the Hyatt Regency Houston’s senior event planning manager, Elizabeth Garcia, also had to iron out other details to ensure a smooth stay for the Hurricanes such as deciding what floor on which to house the team so that players would not be disturbed by excessive noise.

And aware that several Hurricanes fans would be lodging at the property, Higginbotham and her team also changed other operational aspects to accommodate those guests. The lobby-floor Shula’s Steak House, which would normally close between meals, is staying open from breakfast through dinner, a coffee shop is now operating 24 hours, and a special dining and entertainment area was created one floor below the lobby for late-night snacks.

“We’re here for the players, but it’s also an experience for UM fans, especially parents bringing their young children,” said Higginbotham, who credits Smale and other University officials for their help in transforming the hotel. “At some point last year, we knew we would be serving as the hotel for a Final Four team. But it wasn’t until the end of last year, that we were assigned to host the winner of the [NCAA tournament’s] Midwest region.”

Higginbotham admits that she’s become a diehard NCAA tournament fan. “I do watch basketball, and I’ve watched March Madness games before, but I’ve never been into it like now,” she said. “My excitement now is for the Hurricanes.”