You'd have thought the city had just won the bid for the Olympics, that's how happy Hartford's city--and state--fathers and mothers were on August 25 when the Marriott Hartford Downtown officially opened its doors. Financial and insurance conference planners are pleased as well: They now have a first-class hotel and ample meeting space to host many of their hometown meetings and events.

Perhaps the loudest cheers at the ribbon cutting, which came from the hotel's 200 employees, were for J.W. Marriott Jr., chairman and CEO, Marriott International. "It's the associates," who make the experience, said Marriott, and the reason visitors return and groups rebook. Another reason for groups to consider Hartford: some $2 billion in public and private monies are being invested in a revitalization of its downtown.

The hotel is adjacent to the 540,000-square-foot Connecticut Convention Center, which opened in June. The Marriott's complement of 13,000 square feet of meeting space includes the largest hotel ballroom in Hartford, with 8,300 square feet of space. Its guest rooms feature the new Marriott bed--featuring softer sheets, plusher mattresses, stylish duvets, more pillows, and a new fluffy look -- which are being rolled out at all of Marriott's full-service hotels by year-end.

Also featured is Marriott's "The Room that Works," which is equipped with ample work space, an adjustable ergonomic chair, dual-line phones, data ports, clock radio, and no-glare lamps with power outlets. The wireless keyboard even allows guests to send e-mail from their beds. Special touches include Glo, a rooftop spa and fitness center, with heated pool, featuring great views of the Connecticut River and beyond; a first-rate Italian restaurant, Vivo; and a lively bar called Crush.

Governor M. Jodi Rell, Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez, and Len Wolman, chairman and CEO, Waterford Group, were also on hand for the opening. The Waterford Hotel Group owns and operates the hotel through a Marriott franchise as well as the 392-room Hilton Hartford, which reopened in March after a total renovation, just blocks from the convention center and Marriott. Waterford also manages the state-owned convention center, the largest component of the 30-acre Adriaen's Landing Project, which will include a restaurant/shopping/retail mix called Front Street, as well as the $150 million Connecticut Center for Science and Exploration, scheduled for completion in early 2008.