The new £15 million George Best Hotel in Belfast, which is due to open November 2018, will have a life-size statue of the legendary Irish footballer as a permanent tribute and memorial to the football star. The statue will be erected on the rooftop of the hotel with George Best – dubbed ‘The Beautiful Belfast Boy’ – overlooking Donegall Square.
The project is a joint venture between Lawrence and Katie Kenwright’s Liverpool-based Signature Living Hotel Group and the family of George Best, including his sister and devoted confidante Barbara McNarrry dedicated to honouring the footballer legend.
When the joint venture was announced the family of George Best presented a number of iconic items of memorabilia to kick-start the unique collection to be housed at the George Best Hotel. Items of memorabilia included replica European Cups, a silver Northern Ireland cap, paintings of George, and a shirt signed by many of the mourners who attended his funeral.
The development of the listed former Scottish & Mutual building will be the first of four hotels and an £80 million investment into Belfast by Signature Living. The substantial investment into the city includes the £25 million re development of the historic Crumlin Road Court House to create the 150-bedroom Lanyon Hotel and the Waring Hotel, the former War Memorial Building on Waring Street.
Lawrence Kenwright, Chairman, said: “I cannot think of a more fitting tribute than to have a statue of this iconic footballer erected on the rooftop of this magnificent building. To have George Best looking down on Donegall Square and City Hall is an acknowledgement of how important the people and the great city of Belfast meant to him and how much he loved the people. He was a beacon of hope and inspiration for the people of Northern and Southern Ireland throughout all of the years. George Best was once quoted as saying: “When I say Ireland I mean North and South, to me it’s all the same, I see no division.”
Signature Living has also confirmed its first two key appointments to the new George Best Hotel: Belfast-born Damian Gilvary as General Manager and Gareth Milligan as Head of Sales.
Damian previously worked for the Hilton Group of hotels in Belfast and Manchester, while Gareth has extensive experience in all aspects of conference, corporate and leisure sales between Belfast and Dublin.
Lawrence Kenwright added: “We are delighted to have Damian Gilvary as our new General Manager and Gareth Milligan as our Head of Sales for the George Best Hotel. Both Damian and Gareth will bring an exciting and charismatic style of management to the hotel with exceptional local knowledge. We have a unique style in the way we run our hotels. Signature Living has become a successful brand because we don’t do vanilla-style hotels: each hotel we create has a theme, a story and legacy that we bring to the party.
“Our football-themed hotels are each renowned for their uniqueness. The Shankly Hotel Liverpool and Shankly Hotel Preston were conceived and created by working closely with the family of Bill Shankly and his grandson, Christopher Carline. This is the same way the Dixie Dean hotel was also conceived, working closely in conjunction with Barbara Dean and Melanie Prentice and the family of Dixie Dean. By having this validation and connection, the DNA of our hotel brands is truly unique. History, stories, nostalgia and a sense of theatre is what Signature brings to the table, with a modern twist.”
Damian Gilvary said: “It’s a huge honour to be working with such visionary hoteliers as Lawrence and Katie Kenwright, given the huge success of their Signature Living Group hotels and brand. It is also a privilege to be appointed as the new General Manager for the George Best Hotel, which carries an enormous responsibility and expectation.
“Belfast is going to be amazed by this exciting new hotel and the city will not have seen anything like it before: it will truly have the wow factor. Belfast is booming and the city has been craving this kind of guest experience for a very long time.
“I know we will honour his legacy as Belfast’s greatest football hero and son. The George Best Hotel will be the type of luxury hotel that would have been the epitome of his style and class. He was once quoted as saying: “I always wanted more – more of everything” – and that is exactly what the George Best Hotel will be.”
The George Best Hotel will be the fourth football-themed hotel within the Group, which includes the renowned Shankly Hotel Liverpool, conceived as a tribute to the legendary Bill Shankly OBE and the £12 million development of the Dixie Dean Hotel and the £15 million development of the Shankly Hotel in Preston where Shankly spent most of his playing career at Preston North End FC.