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Rooms With a View Fetching Top Dollar

December 27, 1990|RANDYE HODER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

PASADENA — Armando and Barbara Viesca won't get mints on their pillow during their $150-a-night hotel stay here.

What they will get is a bedroom so small that the king-size bed nearly fills it. A double-pane window. And a slightly smelly refrigerator.

But for the Everett, Wash., couple, all of that is just fine, as long as they also get the one thing they care most about: a view of the Tournament of Roses Parade, which precedes the annual Rose Bowl football game. This year's match-up features the University of Washington Huskies and the Hawkeyes from the University of Iowa.

"We weren't after a fancy hotel," said Armando Viesca. "We just wanted a good window seat and a comfortable lounge chair so we could sit on the porch, drink some beers and watch the floats."

Sorry, Armando. There are no porches, or even lounge chairs, in rooms at the Travelodge, 2131 E. Colorado Blvd. Still, the Viescas, who have booked the room for the required minimum three days, will get their view, albeit overlooking Wegge Motor Cars.

"During the rest of the year people want rooms on the inside--rooms that are away from the traffic and noise," said Jim Mou, general manager of the Travelodge, an 80-room hotel that has eight rooms facing the parade route. "But not during the Rose Parade. Then, everyone wants a room with a view."

To get a peek at the parade without ever leaving their room, visitors pay a steep price.

"A lot of other cities that have large events go way overboard in what they charge people," said Gail Thompson, executive director of the local Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Pasadena is not known for gouging."

Nonetheless, during the rest of the year, the Westway Inn, Best Western Colorado Inn, Travelodge, Saga Motor Hotel and Econo Lodge--the five economy hotels that sit along the parade route on Colorado Boulevard between Sierra Madre and Orange Grove boulevards--charge customers an average of $50 a night, some even less. But with a monopoly on the 62 rooms in town that face the parade route, they can charge between $125 and $280 a night, as well as demand two- to three-night minimum stays.

Although far from Pasadena's finest, the roadside hotels deliver the one thing that, at similar rates, the Doubletree Hotel or Pasadena Hilton simply can't offer.

"They have fine restaurants, room service and entertainment," said Econo Lodge manager Irene Stufflebean. "But everybody wants to be here. They want to be close enough to see the excitement the night before and to watch the parade. It's that simple."

Sally Javan, manager of the Best Western Colorado Inn, said she starts taking reservations each year on Jan. 15 for the next year's parade.

The Best Western has 16 rooms with balcony views that go for $280 a night; that's nearly five times the regular $60 rate. And there's a three-night minimum.

"The rooms usually sell out on the same day that we start taking reservations," Javan said.

"You wonder why you're doing this when you know you can see it on TV," Viesca, 52, said. "But we've watched it on TV for years. This year we wanted to be part of the whole thing."

So do more than 1 million people who, according to the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, come to town for the Tournament of Roses Parade and Rose Bowl each year.

Indeed, by Dec. 1 most of the rooms in Pasadena have been sold out and the local Chamber of Commerce begins recommending hotels in Glendale, Burbank, Arcadia, Monrovia and downtown Los Angeles to handle the overflow.

"Everybody wants to sit in their room and watch the parade," said Carol Brian, manager of the Saga Motor Hotel, which, although on the parade route, has only one room with a view. "I've always thought that was silly, given that this is California."

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