Hilton Garden Inn welcomes its first guest

The Garden Inn Harlingen Convention Center Hotel located at 751 Harlingen Heights Drive opened its doors to patrons yesterday. The 149 room hotel offers guests and oversized fitness center, outdoor pool, full-service bar, restaurant as well as being directly connected to the Harlingen Convention Center. (Maricela Rodriguez/Valley Morning Star)

HARLINGEN — It’s here.

Zeke Reyna has worked tirelessly for 25 years to bring the Hilton Garden Inn to the community, and Friday morning he became its first guest.

“We’ve been trying to get into the hotel business for a long time,” said Reyna, owner of Reyna Family Development, which sold the property for the development of both the full-service hotel and the adjacent Harlingen Convention Center. Both facilities were built to complement each other.

BC Lynd Hospitality is the developer and manager of the hotel while the city of Harlingen is the developer and owner of the convention center.

Reyna and his wife Livia had arrived for a “soft-opening” of the five-story, 149-room hotel along with representatives of BC Lynd Hospitality, which manages both facilities. They gathered in the brand new lobby resonating with a fresh vitality. Soft lighting spilled across the slate-colored floors, a bar waited for its first customers, couches and chairs stood ready for visitors preparing to check into their rooms. A glistening pool outside the door beckoned new visitors.

“We’d like all of South Texas to come see this beautiful property and to continue to support us,” Reyna said. “The first thing we’re going to do is look around and see how beautiful this hotel is, and kick back, put our feet up and relax for one day.”

The $25 million project experienced multiple delays due to weather and other factors.

“With anything, construction has all kinds of little surprises that can happen,” said Brandon Raney, CEO of BC Lynd Hospitality.

“A couple of months ago we had a hurricane that rolled through here, things like that,” Raney said. “In June of 2019 as well as ‘18 we had massive rainstorms.”

He gave a shout-out to everyone who helped make the convention center and hotel possible.

“It’s the culmination of lots of hard work and a lot of time,” Raney said. “We’re excited, we’re proud, and the team here has just done an amazing job.”

He made special reference to the crucial role the Hilton will play for the convention center as well as the greater Harlingen community.

“It’s really an important element for the convention center to have a hotel and vice versa for the hotel to have the convention center,” he said. “We really are excited as we move beyond the coronavirus pandemic. We’re excited about what the convention center is going to do to attract folks to Harlingen who otherwise would go somewhere else.”

The Garden Inn Harlingen Convention Center Hotel located at 751 Harlingen Heights Drive opened its doors to patrons yesterday. The 149 room hotel offers guests and oversized fitness center, outdoor pool, full-service bar, restaurant as well as being directly connected to the Harlingen Convention Center. (Maricela Rodriguez/Valley Morning Star)

General Manager Arturo Menendez said he looked forward to “wowing” guests.

“We’re going to give them the best service possible, and friendly smiles, even if they can’t see the smiles right now because of the face masks, you can see the smile in the eyes,” Menendez said. “This is the newest model. We’re going to have room service, we’re going to have a restaurant serving dinner. It’s going to be a beautiful hotel.”

Steven Villarreal, director of sales and marketing for the Hilton Garden Inn Harlingen Convention Center, said the actual ribbon cutting and grand opening had to be pushed to January because of COVID-19 concerns.

twhitehead@valleystar.com