Glory Years Long Gone, Red Lion Hotel’s Closing Comes Amid Changing Sacramento

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – It was once known as one of the best places to stay in Sacramento – a hotel and conference center that attracted top musicians.

But those days are gone. The Red Lion Hotel has had several owners and struggled even after a $40 million renovation.

Now it’s being eclipsed by more modern hotels with a growing downtown.

With its own lake on site, the 18-acre hotel and conference center on Leisure Lane was also a top spot for weddings.

“The Radisson was a staple people liked going there and back in those days it was very popular,” said City of Sacramento Council Member Jeff Harris.

Its history traces back to 1957, then the Hotel El Dorado.

Councilmember Harris represents the district where the now Red Lion is located.

“I’ve gone there three decades that I remember,” Harris said.

But this once-grand conference hotel with large palm trees lining its circular entrance will soon be demolished.

“The new owners felt it wasn’t worth the investment to bring it up,” Harris said. “It’s pretty run down.”

Columbia Pacific advisors bought the complex last year and released a statement, saying: “We have still not determined future development plans for the 14.4-acre eastern side of the Woodlake property, but we are evaluating all options to best meet the needs of the surrounding community.”

Harris says it’s a tough loss for the city with now fewer hotel rooms, and a tough hit for the local economy.

“We’re also losing about 150 good paying jobs with benefits,” Harris said.

Harris says he understands times and tastes are changing.

“Our hotel business model is transforming to a more urban model,” Harris said.

This suburban model is falling out of favor with hotel guests who want a more modern room in a vibrant downtown city that Sacramento is now creating.

So what will replace the once bustling hotel and gathering spot?

A three-story, 143-bed assisted living/memory care for seniors is planned for nearly 4 acres. The company says it will develop the rest to best meet the needs of the surrounding community. It’s a promise Harris and those in his district hope involve strong employment opportunities the hotel has provided for more than half a century.

“It’s really important to keep the level of high paying jobs up in Sacramento we have far too many jobs that pay minimum age,” Harris said.

The Seattle-based company says it will close down the hotel Dec. 12 and demolish it shortly after.

More from Kelly Ryan
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