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By Oklahoma Tourism Staff
Norman’s Hidden Hotel Treasure
The NCED Conference Center and Hotel in Norman is not what it appears to be when you drive past it on SH-9. Many know it as the national training center for the U.S. Postal Service but most don’t realize that it is also a resort hotel, managed by the Marriott Corporation, and open to the public. Those who discover it are amazed.
During a recent interview, General Manger Yves Badaroux shared something from a first time guest, “Actually, we had a comment of somebody saying that this was like a cruise ship on land, without being seasick of course.”
It might have been because the guest discovered the Route 66 Lounge, the indoor and outdoor volleyball courts, the full service spa, the extensive lunch and dinner buffet, or perhaps the complete gym. It may have been the incredible salt water swimming pool that amazed the guest.
Badaroux says it is a common reaction from first-time visitors when they see the facility. “We have a world-class fitness center that is not only something that you can use but we have actually a full staff of professionals that are here to assist you if you want to know how to perform a special exercise available to them. We have free classes, everything from Yoga to belly dancing. We have spa services. You can get your hair cut. You can get foot massage. We have physical therapists.”
The NCED is Marriott-managed but not Marriott-branded. Badaroux says that means that the beds, the food, and the services are what you would expect to find in a Marriott anywhere in the world.
While the NCED is still a training center for postal employees, USPS realized some time back that the amenities offered to employees in training, sometimes for months, presented a unique opportunity.
Acting facility manager, Paul Warrick explained, “We realized that what we had to offer for our employees we could offer to the private sector and, to be quite honest, the training that we offer is as good, or in many cases better, than what they’ll find anywhere else. So we wanted to take advantage of that and market that to the outside. We’ve reached out probably into sectors we didn’t expect to reach out to. We’re hosting weddings and bar mitzvahs now. So we went from technical training initially to now hosting pretty much any event under the sun. ”
The conference facility offers meeting space for as many as eight-hundred participants in state-of-the-art meeting rooms, with high-speed internet capability and WiFi.
The 968 rooms at the hotel are also WiFi equipped and range from one-bedroom units to suites. All the rooms were remodeled last year. The remodeling project opened the door for the NCED to take a huge step in environmental concern. More than fifty tons of carpet and 20 tons of vinyl were recycled.
That was one of the factors for the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality naming the NCED the first Platinum certified hotel in the state. The hotel also recycles all of its cardboard, all of its paper, all the aluminum used in the building, all the plastic and all of the glass. Then the hotel tackled a problem that most hotels and conference centers face-how to reduce the amount of plastic used in the first place.
“Plastic is really a big problem and we found a company that manufactures a water filtration system that puts the water through a triple carbon filter and then the water is exposed to UV rays to kill whatever germs there might be,” Badaroux explains. “And we bottle that water in glass bottles and this is what we provide to our guests in the conference area and we can wash the bottles and reuse them again. By doing that, we eliminated over 80-thousand plastic bottles a year.”
The facility tackled environmental issues on all fronts. Many of the herbs used in the dining room are grown in herb gardens on the grounds. The laundry was renovated with an ozone system that puts fewer hazardous chemicals into the environment. The swimming pool was converted to salt water, which also is more environmentally friendly.
While the commitment to the environment brought the state’s highest environmental award, it was not the award that brought the NCED to this point.
Yves Badaroux says it just makes sense to do those things. “Everything that we do, we do it because it is the right thing to do but we also do it because it makes perfect business sense. You end up, if you are willing sometimes to put some money up front to invest in some technologies or some systems, the return investment is usually pretty quick. To give you an example, the filtration system for the water, for instance, okay, it returned our investment in less than a year.”
So, with all the amenities you expect, and many you don’t, visitors to the NCED Hotel and Conference Center in Norman can sleep a little easier with the knowledge that they are also doing as little harm as possible to the environment while they are there.
The Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department website, TravelOK.com, has a link to the NCED Hotel and Conference Center, with more information on the facility and their on-line reservation system.