CLEARWATER — Come springtime, locals will find it difficult to recognize the former Quality Hotel Beach Resort on Clearwater Beach.
That’s because the hotel’s owner, Choice Hotels International, developer Page Development Group, and Clearwater Marine Aquarium are turning the property into a hotel dedicated to a famous dolphin. When visitors drive over the Sand Key Bridge into Clearwater Beach in June, they’ll look to their left and see the new “Winter the Dolphin’s Beach Club Hotel” on the north shore of Clearwater Pass.
The new resort wasn’t always to be named for Winter.
According to Lodging News, a magazine for hotel and motel professionals, the new motel was originally to be named the Dolphin Sands. That was before Page Development Group ran into the marketing buzz saw that is the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
Aquarium spokeswoman Kelsy Long said CMA’s chief marketing and revenue officer, Bill Potts, came up with the idea with his team and approached Page with the concept in early January.
“A portion of the proceeds from each room-night sold will be donated towards CMA’s mission,” Long said, noting that further details of the branding agreement will be revealed in a few months when the hotel opens.
Winter the dolphin, the world knows, lost her tail after her entanglement in a Florida crab trap line. Staff and veterinarians at the aquarium saved the animal’s life by fitting her with a prosthetic tail. The story has been recounted in “Dolphin Tale” as well as a sequel, both produced by Warner Bros. Studios.
In the wake of the films, children with disabilities and military veterans suffering from battle wounds have made the trek to CMA to visit Winter and her sidekick, Hope. Letters from disabled children that can move the most jaded hearts line the walls of the aquarium. Choice Hotels hopes the dolphins’ international renown will move families with children and other dolphin lovers to stay at the hotel.
The resort will remind guests of Winter and other marine characters from the moment they walk from the parking lot through the front door.
“From the lobby to each guest room, the entire facility will be themed with Winter and other marine life,” a CMA press release states. Even the stone jetties on the resort’s beach on the inlet will be shaped like dolphin tails and a “wild dolphin webcam” streaming to screens in the resort lobby and elsewhere in the hotel lets guests keep an eye on Clearwater’s active marine life.
Davie Yates, the aquarium’s outgoing chief executive, is on board.
“A Winter the dolphin hotel is sure to delight guests from around the world, especially those who come to Clearwater Beach to visit Winter at Clearwater Marine Aquarium,” Yates said. “We’re confident that travelers will be attracted by the sustainability and opportunity to immerse themselves in marine life.”
The branding relationship will help increase paid visits to the aquarium a few miles away and put money directly in the aquarium’s non-profit pockets: “Proceeds from each room night will go directly to the care, education, research and conservation of marine mammals through the work of CMA,” Choice Hotels said.
The location of the construction project on Clearwater Pass and the Intracoastal Waterway presented challenges to protecting the environment. That’s why Steven Page of Page Development, which has three other hotels in the Tampa Bay area, said it opted to overhaul the Quality Hotel reusing existing materials.
For example, rather than purchase new doors, every room has a refurbished original door.
The exterior walls, hallways, balconies, and other building features are lighted by sea turtle-safe lighting. The Florida Sea Turtle Conservancy, which helps hotels, inns, and private condominium owners evaluate their outdoor lighting, recommends builders use long-wavelength lights of 580 nanometers or longer. The lights on the new Winter hotel will appear orange to reddish after dark to avoid confusing nesting turtles and their offspring looking for open water.
The hotel will use biodegradable straws and avoid the use of other single-use plastics, which other local hotels and restaurants also have agreed to do. The Clearwater City Council approved an anti-plastics resolution in 2018, and Clearwater’s Ocean Allies organization, a collection of environmentally minded local businesses and individuals, encourages Clearwater Beach businesses to reduce their use of single-use plastics, such as straws, plastic carry bags, cups and polystyrene products such as Styrofoam.
“Even the window treatments reduce energy use while minimizing the harmful effects of sun glare off the Gulf,” Page Development said.