The Inn At the Ballpark

added 5/30/2004 by Susan Pittman

Since the opening of the Tilman Fertitta hotel, The Inn at the Ballpark (“IATB”), I’ve been wanting to see it and experience one of the packages. Memorial Day weekend, Darrell and I decided to splurge and indulge in one of their package deals, the Grand Slam. It is described as follows:

Their website is innattheballpark.com, if you want to check it out. The packages are not shown on the website.

I have to admit, I’m always nervous when spending a lot of money. This was something I wanted to do, but at the same time, I was already experiencing a bit of ‘buyer’s remorse’. I was expecting the worst.

Lobby at The Inn at the Ballpark

We arrived at two p.m. on Saturday as we were told to do when we made the reservation. There was a line for valet parking and it appeared they were not ready for the arriving guests. Waiting for the valet is a bit awkward, especially on game day, with all of the vehicle and pedestrian traffic on Texas Avenue. It appears that valet parking or street parking is all that is available. As I look outside, I don’t see anything but valet spaces.

We unloaded the car, went inside the lobby, checked in and then were told that coolers were not allowed in the hotel. At that point, we were ready to cancel, but they did make an exception. We had requested a smoking room when we made the reservation and had to ask again when we checked in to make sure that we got a smoking room. They switched us from whatever the original room was. We are on the 7th floor, with a view of the GRB, the new Hilton, the office building where I work (Chevron tower) and the Houston Center complex. We can also see the parking lot below and the Toyota center.

We are in a two-room suite. The décor is very masculine and a ballpark theme. The art is old-time baseball scenes. The walls are tan and the carpet is a green, rust and tan plaid. The bathroom is the best part. Double sink, private water closet and marble countertops. The living room has a small leather sofa, club chair, wet bar with small fridge and a 27” TV with a DVD player. They have Web TV access (for $9.95/day) and Nintendo (didn’t check the price, but probably also $9.95/day). High-speed Internet access is also available (for $9.95/day). No WiFi, which was disappointing. For a hotel less than a year old, you would have thought they would have put in wireless Internet access.

The bedroom has a desk, a king bed, a nice radio and the same size TV as in the living area. The closet is small but adequate. One disappointing thing, no coffee pot in the room. According to the website, you can go to the lobby to get complimentary coffee, but who wants to get dressed just to go for coffee? I have stayed in many, many hotels (I travel for work) and almost all of them have a small coffee pot in the rooms and furnish complimentary coffee. Also, according to the website, a complimentary newspaper is available. It is not outside my front door as I’m accustomed to when I travel.

When the hotel called to confirm the reservations, we were told that they did not give tours on game day. OK, so much for the “pre-game tour for two.” The flyer made it sound like we would get a personal tour of the ballpark, but as it turned out, we received vouchers to go on the regular tour. If I were traveling from out of town, I would not be happy with that aspect of the package.

The game tickets for Saturday were good. We were in section 109, row 20, seats 11 and 12. I’ve sat in the field boxes before and missed most of the game due to the parade that was going up and down the aisle and for that reason I’m not particularly fond of field level seats. I think you get a better view on the terrace deck, because there aren’t as many people to try to see through as they are going out for whatever reason. My company has front row field box seats and on the one occasion I was able to get those tickets it was great. But other field box seats have usually been disappointing. For the price of this package, I think IATB could have gone for club level seats. Darrell was somewhat surprised that they didn’t put us in the Crawfish Boxes, since the Landry’s restaurant logo (another Fertitta operation) is all over it.

A soapbox aside here, why do people wait for the beginning of a half-inning to go out. Why not go when the previous half-inning is over? It never ceases to amaze me, the first batter in a half-inning gets up to bat and the people in front of me suddenly decide they can’t wait for three outs to get a hot dog or bowl of ice cream. I can understand “Mommy, I have to go to the bathroom now,” but these are usually people without kids (mostly women, but a lot of men too), who aren’t interested in the game and have to stand up, get money, take orders or whatever, so the people behind them miss the action on the field. Or, as happened on Sunday, they come in to the ballgame late (2nd or 3rd inning), crawl over everyone in the row to get to their middle seats and then once settled, decided they have to go back out for refreshments. It drives me crazy. Ok, I’m off my soapbox, for now.

The Saturday game itself was disappointing, and I won’t go into that. You can read Darrell’s recap for that information. It was really nice being able to walk out of the ballpark, cross the street and be “home.” That was really cool.

We made dinner reservations at Vic & Anthony’s for 9 pm. Darrell wrote his recap and I watched the Pirates and Cubs game on WGN. Our friend Alan came over and had a beer. He was also at the game, so he “dropped in” after the game.

Dinner at Vic & Anthony’s (also a Fertitta enterprise) was awesome. My only complaint is that it was loud. Whatever happened to quiet restaurants and “inside voices?” The food and service were great. I had filet mignon and it was the best I have ever had. Darrell had the rack of lamb and we shared a serving of creamed spinach. He had beefsteak tomato and onion salad and I had a wedge salad. The produce was incredibly fresh and at the peak of ripeness; the creamed spinach was fantastic. The bread was crispy outside and light and fluffy inside. The desserts were okay. We got the Chocolate Collection, which was an assortment of chocolate treats. The chocolate dipped strawberries were great and the candies were also good. I was a little disappointed in the “gelee”. It had too much gelatin for my tastes. We also had a Vanilla Creme Puff, which was good, but not great. We went to Taste of Texas a few weeks ago and this was so much better. For any special occasion, I highly recommend Vic & Anthony’s.

We had to request the “turndown service.” I’m not sure what the advertised special baseball amenity is. If we got it, I don’t know what it was. They left out slippers for two people, but only one robe. They left a postcard, a pen, laundry bag and the breakfast menu on a tray on the bed. We didn’t order room service for breakfast, because our package includes breakfast buffet downstairs in the restaurant. The bed is okay. It is not as good as a Westin “heavenly bed”, but it is not uncomfortable. I’ve slept in worse, I’ve slept in better. At most hotels I’ve stayed in, when there is turndown service, the maid will also empty ashtrays and occasionally remove the trash. Not the case here.

I did decide to go in search of that complimentary coffee and newspaper. I had to wait at the restaurant to get coffee. A gentleman was also looking for coffee and a newspaper. The paper was nowhere to be found.

The breakfast buffet was good, although the selection on the buffet was very picked over. The fruit that was there was fresh. They offered made-to-order omelettes, which we had, and they were quite good. The biscuits were dried out from being on the heat table and the gravy was a bit pasty. Darrell had what we thought was orange juice at first, but had a grapefruit taste. Coffee was slow in coming. The waitress was alone there and had to do everything from seat to get drinks to take orders from those who wanted to order from the menu or get an omelette. The restaurant was seriously understaffed. It appeared to me that there were not drop-ins from the street. Everyone in the restaurant seemed to be staying at the hotel. The manager did drop by and ask us how breakfast was. She also asked how we enjoyed our dinner at Vic & Anthony’s. She remembered us from the cooler “incident.”

We took a few pictures around the lobby and came back to the room to pack up before the game. The Aveda toiletries are a nice touch. The towels are plush. The Guest Services book indicated there were in-room spa services available and referred you to the spa section (of the book), but there is not a spa section in the book. Also, the TV Guide holders are empty. At first I wondered what it was, as there was one in each room of the suite. I determined they were TV Guide holders because one of them did have a bookmark sized channel guide.

The game on Sunday was great. Redding had his stuff and it was fun to watch. There were a lot of Cardinal fans in that section. One even brought her broom. Ha! We were in section 105, row 37, seats 8 and 9. The location is further out, right next to the Crawfish Boxes and immediately to the right of the left field foul pole. The view was good. No foul balls came to us.

After the game, we headed back to the hotel to get our post-game snack at the Ballpark Bar. We had spinach dip, which was good, but a little different. It had more cream than spinach. We watched a portion of the Indy 500 on the wide screen TV at the bar. Then we got our stuff from the bellman and got our car from the valet and headed home.

The advertised price for the Grand Slam package was $339. I don’t know why our bill was reduced, but we ended up paying about $280 and that was with the additional tickets for Sunday’s game, a drink at the bar and the $9.95 Internet access. It could have been a Memorial Weekend special that we didn’t know about, or because we switched to a less expensive room. At $339 for the package (one night, one baseball game), this is obviously not something we are going to do very often, especially since we are locals. There are other packages available and the website did indicate $89.00/night rooms for Memorial Day weekend, but we had already purchased the Grand Slam package.

It was a nice treat for us. If we were to do it again, I would not do the package deal. Overall, I recommend the hotel as a nice treat. While minor improvements in the accommodations and service could be made, over all it is very luxurious. The only flaw with the service was the hotel restaurant was a little understaffed; most likely, we just caught them on a bad day.

But you can’t beat the proximity to the ballpark.

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