Suite City

Metropolis Hotel, just opened, anchors attractions off of I-94

Katie McKy, photos by Drew Kaiser |

Big things come from small packages. A tiny engagement ring can presage a lifetime of commitment. The right egg can even hatch a 40-ton Supersaurus. Well, Supersaurus-sized things can also come from tiny dreams. Eau Claire’s Metropolis Hotel is an example of a small dream that grew and grew and grows still. The Met, with its 107 rooms, began as Action City. Action City began as a simple dream of a go-cart track: a track and a shack manned by the men who’d build it: Tom Hahn, Mark Steil, and Kerry Kjelstad.

“We imagined a go-cart track where we’d sell some chips and soda on the side,” Hahn said.

That vision grew into Wisconsin’s largest go-cart track, with enough twists to make a Formula One driver giddy. The growing isn’t done. Action City abuts the Met, but at its other end, a 30,000 square foot water park is rising. The effect is a seeming shortening of Interstate 94. Chippewa Valley folks won’t have to drive to the Dells to careen down waterslides and snooze in a four-star hotel. All that will soon be available at the intersection of Highway 93 and I-94.

Action City, of course, is open. If all goes well, the water park will open in the spring of ’09. The Met, which just opened, manages to be both exciting and serene. Its Aqua Lounge is aptly named, with aqua, white, and chrome postmodern touches. It’s the sort of joint where Old Blue Eyes, Sammy, and Dino would have lounged. The Met also has specialty suites, such as New York Loft. However, you don’t have to rent a specialty suite to sample the Met’s sweetness. It’s a boutique hotel, with no rows of beige rooms. Each room feels fresh. That freshness is a local effort. Eau Claire designer Cecilia Cronk designed the rooms one at a time, incorporating the best of what Hahn, Steil, and Kjelstad saw on a tour of regional resorts.

Cronk said, “The name, Metropolis, was my starting point. I took the name and ran with a city theme, but I wanted to give each room a different feel. Nothing is cookie cutter.”

Nancy Luer, the Met’s general manager, said, “A lot of hotel owners think that they can decorate themselves, but I wouldn’t have thought to do half the things that Cecelia did. It’s both modern and unique. It’s European too.”

One of those European rooms is the honeymoon suite, the Paris Apartment.

Tami Severson, the director of sales and marketing, said, “The first bride that I showed it to was three feet into the room when she said, ‘I’ll take it.’”

The Met beguiles brides, but bookended by the kid heavens of Action City and a water park, it also enchants kids. And with the rise in gas prices, staycation has been added to the American lexicon, meaning that the most pragmatic vacation might be staying close to home. But the Met is more than just a staycation destination. It’s also a home for business travelers

Severson said, “We focus on the business traveler through the week, with a business center, laptop safes, wireless, 37” flat screen televisions in every room. There’s also a complementary continental breakfast and a goody bag for those in a rush.”

And for the road weary traveler, there are details that deliver unfettered rest.

Nancy Luer said, “We have luxurious towels and top of the line beds. We have an exercise room, a spa, a sauna, and a coffee shop that brews Starbucks coffee.”

And it all began with a dream of a track and a shack.

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