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Inn at Rio Rancho to fly the Howard Johnson flag

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A new chapter in the long history of the Inn at Rio Rancho begins this week when the 47-year-old establishment moves under the Howard Johnson brand.

Starting Friday, the 118-room hotel will operate as Howard Johnson Rio Rancho/Albuquerque North, general manager Bob Preble said. A ribbon cutting is planned for mid-April.

Bob Preble, general manager at the Inn of Rio Rancho, left, and Dan Brittingham, food and beverage director, stand outside some of the rooms that have had their exterior doors removed as part of an ongoing renovation at the inn. (Rio Rancho Observer—MIKE HARTRANFT photo)

Bob Preble, general manager at the Inn of Rio Rancho, left, and Dan Brittingham, food and beverage director, stand outside some of the rooms that have had their exterior doors removed as part of an ongoing renovation at the inn. (Rio Rancho Observer—MIKE HARTRANFT photo)

The inn will remain under the ownership of Sang Chae, president of the WR Management Company, but will use the new name under a franchise agreement with Wyndam Hotels, which also owns Super 8, Travelodge and Wyndam Garden hotels and has more than 7 million rewards members.

“We felt going under a flag, especially in this company, is going to help us tremendously,” Preble said. “What we’re trying to do now is to be able to offer points for free stays at various Wyndham hotels. One of our goals is to go for more corporate clientele.”

Chae, who took ownership of the Inn at Rio Rancho about seven years ago, also owns the Country Inn & Suites near the Albuquerque International Sunport and a Red Lion Inn in Cathedral City, Calif., Preble said.

Preble said none of the Inn at Rio Rancho’s management team or 40 to 45 staff members will be affected by the move. He said it’s likely five or six staffers will be added with the conversion.

Preble said a number of renovations are under way, including removing exterior doors to the rooms so access is from the courtyard only, not the parking lot.

The former Toro Bar is being converted into a half-bar/breakfast room, with dinner service planned seven days a week, Preble said. The outdoor space adjacent to the bar will remain.

There are plans to convert a couple of rooms into suites. Rooms are receiving minor renovations, with fuller renovations expected next year, Preble said. All of the buildings are being painted essentially the same color they are now, not the familiar HoJo orange.

The swimming pool area is being renovated and most of the courtyard landscaping will be redone, Preble said. The courtyard accounts for two of the five acres the inn occupies, something a lot of Rio Ranchoans are unaware of, he said.

“That’s one thing I really want to showcase this summer,” he said. He said the inn currently hosts 45 to 50 weddings a year, something it will continue. Renovations are planned for the ballroom next year.

The inn features seven meeting rooms, with the main ballroom able to accommodate about 325 people.

The inn was under Best Western for a number of years before Chae took ownership. It has operated under several names since it was built by AMREP, the developer of Rio Rancho, in 1967.

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