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(Fourth) Rate the IL Hotel!-Durham


It’s time once again for the game show which has a maximum occupancy of 60……

(Fourth) Rate the IL Hotel!

And now, here’s your host, the man whose luggage cart always veers to the left…..Jason Benetti!

Thank you Gene Wood, and a pleasure to be along with you all for the second installment of (Fourth) Rate the IL Hotel!  If you’ve just joined us, this is the game where we assign a score to each of the hotels the Syracuse Chiefs stay in and tell you why.

This week’s contestant is the Durham Marriott City Center.


Nestled on Foster Street in downtown Durham, North Carolina, the Marriott towers over most of the buildings in the area and provides a generally pleasant experience for International League teams.

We’ll give you three pluses and three minuses.


1) Heart of darkness

When I was a kid, I’d get back from school on certain days and my father would be asleep.  He was an air traffic controller and was preparing to work an overnight shift.  He’d already worked until noon or so that day.  So, in order to be ready for his rather intense job, he needed to sleep.  So, it was important that whatever I did was quiet enough to be considered considerate.  Even more importantly, though, his bedroom had to be dark.  So, he’d cover the window with a towel or something else to simulate nighttime.

In the “what I’d really like dad is to borrow the car keys” department, I now know how Rob Benetti felt.  Sometimes–like last night–baseball games run long.  So, real, restful sleep requires a person to slumber until after it gets light outside.  For that reason, a baseball hotel gets high marks for having window curtains which:

1) Keep the room pitch black


2) Cover the entire window

There’s not much worse than a sliver of light seeping through a cavernous room causing a 6:45 A.M. wakeup.   The Durham curtains are unrivaled in the International League in the darkness they create.  It’s virtually impossible to see in the room with the light off and the curtains drawn.

2) Food stuffs galore

Within a four-block radius of the Marriott is the best burger I’ve had at Bull City Brewery, the best chicken and waffles I’ve ever had at Dame’s:

Yes, that's honey dijon, syrup, chicken and a sweet potato waffle.....

Yes, that’s honey dijon, syrup, chicken and a sweet potato waffle…..


Plus, theres a slew of restaurants near the ballpark which include a pizza place, a Cuban place and a bundle of sports bars.  Before this season, that made Durham the foodie capital of the International League.  In 2013, though, there’s more.  Just a block away from the Marriott, tucked away on a one way street lies some of the best ice cream in the world at The Parlour.  To any International League travel wonks, go there.  Fast.  They make their own ice cream and it is superb.  They also feature a creative team behind the counter.

The menu lists “ice cream sandwich” as an option.  Seeing the pre-made cookie sandwiches in the freezer propped near the door, I asked the woman behind the counter if I could cook up my own ice cream sandwich.  They said there’s no reason why not, and off we went.  They plopped a few scoops of honey chai ice cream in the middle of two chocolate snickerdoodles and created frozen Valhalla.

Dessert so good, it can't contain itself.

Dessert so good, it can’t contain itself.


Sweet, flavorful ice cream + brilliant service = must-visit.

3) Elevation

Durham’s Marriott has two elevators for nine floors and I didn’t wait more than 30 seconds for a lift.  An Otis miracle.


1) Watered-down

In previous years, the Durham Marriott staff has put out fruit-flavored water in a jug next to the elevators.  No dice this time, though the table is still there to taunt those of us who remember what used to be placed on it.

2) Key players

There’s a bank of doors on the side of the building which provides easier access to the hotel’s lobby by foot from the ballpark than the main entrance.  After game one of the series, those doors were open.  After game two, which was shorter than game one, the doors were closed.  No need for them to always be open.  Just be consistent.  Post a time.  Stick to it.

3) ‘net results

The internet access is still slow in spots.  Precise spots.  You know how sometimes it rains on your house and not your great aunt’s place a mile-and-a-half away?  Internet in my room, 609, was spotty and generally slow.  Chiefs trainer Jeff Allred, in 607, reported high, consistent speed.




9 complimentary shampoos out of 10!


Tremendous work. See you next time, when the Chiefs travel to Toledo……will there be a pizza box in the room?  A (Fourth) Rate the IL Hotel cliffhanger!



(Fourth) Rate the IL Hotel!–Norfolk


The calendar has turned to 2013 and it’s time for the game where you can dial zero for a wake-up call 24 hours a day….

(Fourth) Rate the IL Hotel!

And now, here’s your host……the man whose television always defaults to hotel information…..

Jason Benetti!

Well thank you Johnny Gilbert and thank all of you for coming along for (Fourth) Rate the IL Hotel!  We’ve been renewed for a fourth season and we’re pleased as spiked punch.  We’re so excited to tell you about the hotels the Syracuse Chiefs stay at, we’ve created a new rating system.  That’ll be unveiled after this review of the Sheraton Norfolk Waterside!



1) Club at the top of the hotel

After much key-card issuing (see con #3), the Chiefs broadcast contingent end up on the 10th floor of the Sheraton, as high as one can be at the hotel.  It’s easy to be snooty when you’ve got to put your room key into a reader in the elevator to get to your floor.

2) Water

The hotel is next to some pretty awesome naval ships.

3) Beds

Comfortable sleeping.  Cushy beds, perfect pillows.


1) Wireless irritation

The Sheraton Waterside, like most hotels which think everything is getting comped, charges for internet.  10 bucks a day.  This isn’t necessarily convenient, but it’s alright.  Everything has a cost.  So, I’m happy to fill in my room number and last name (355, Mandel is what I usually go with) to get the show on the road.  There was, however, a major issue with the internet access at the Sheraton.  Every two or three hours on average, I was asked to put my information in again.  That led me to believe the bill for the room would look something like this:

Internet, one night:  9.95

Internet, one night:  9.95

Internet, one night:  9.95 Internet, one night:  9.95 Internet, one night:  9.95 Internet, one night:  9.95 Internet, one night:  9.95 Internet, one night:  9.95 Internet, one night:  9.95 Internet, one night:  9.95 Internet, one night:  9.95 Internet, one night:  9.95 Internet, one night:  9.95 Internet, one night:  9.95

Not only does that get irritating–I will never forget room 1019/Benetti for the rest of my life–but it gets expensive, too.  The good news is, the internet was free because we were on the 10th floor.

2) Outlet maul

As a “business traveler”–defined as someone who is not in the city because he or she wants to be, but because instead he or she wants the employment which forces him or her to be–I have few needs.  One is a suitable bed.  Another is a shower.  All rooms come equipped with these (unless you’re staying at the Days Inn in Dumfries, Virginia where, in my experience, you typically share the bed with a family of bugs who are interested in coming home with you, despite your use of the shower.).  The third necessity is a power outlet or two.  Even before a carpet, a dresser, an ottoman and assorted paintings and mirrors (which all rooms have, too), I need something where I may plug in my devices.  They are essential now.  Figure it out.  The Sheraton had two outlets in the main room.  They were next to each other in an odd pull-out segment on top of the desk (which, by the way, is useless unless you have something you’re working on which is set on the desk.  Say, a computer.).  I plugged my phone into a socket in the bathroom.  Also, while I was still Lewis Black-seething about this, I walked into the hallway and saw an outlet.  Yes, CFOs at the Sheraton, do not fear!  The corridors at the Sheraton Waterside are perfect for your computing needs!

3) Room with a view….of others

Jeff Allred, the Chiefs’ trainer manages bumps, bruises, fractures, concussions and all things medical.  Bet you didn’t know that he’s also in charge of letting the hotel know who is staying with whom on the road.  This happens through a magical document called the Rooming List.  Typically, the hotel gets the first List a few days prior to the team’s arrival.  This allows management to get rooms ready and keys made for the team so the process of getting players into beds is smooth.  It also helps night-shift workers who are generally alone behind the counter when the team gets there (we showed up at the Sheraton at 2 A.M. Wednesday).  The only caveat is:  the Rooming List changes when players are called up, sent down, released or otherwise.  So, it’s a near-constant shuffle for the hotel folks to clear up room changes.  The Sheraton played 52-pickup.


Kevin and I picked up our room key which sent us to the ninth floor.  We opened the door to find one bed.  Not exactly what we were hoping for, especially considering the rooming list indicating we required two.  So, I went back to the front desk.  The gentleman there handed me a key to a different room.  Went there, opened the door… find…..Erik Davis and Ryan Perry getting ready to go to sleep!  Four to a room!  Nope.  Back to the front desk.  The attendant believed he had isolated which room was empty.  He called a double room on the same floor and got no answer.  Back upstairs…..key in door…..opened to a TV on……and Danny Rosenbaum!  “So that’s who just called the room,” says a bleary-eyed Triple-A rookie who just wants some shut-eye after a nine-hour bus ride.  Losing my patience, I ride downstairs one more time.  The gentleman behind the desk says, “Again?”  I say, “Yes.”  He then says he’s going to call more rooms to see which one is unoccupied.  I let him know that I’m not in the market for a game of room roulette with sleepy infielders.  I ask him what the true best way to go about this is.  He says, stonefaced, “Roulette.”  He then begins to call rooms.  I stop him and ask him to re-evaluate this plan, as it will result in players who are less-than-thrilled with me.  After some discussion, he agrees and finds a top-floor room in his system which was previously reserved for a crew from the airlines who never made it in that night (just their luck).  Worst part of the scenario:  The guy’s insistence that someone else had made the mistake.  Don’t blame your absent co-workers.  Bad form.



Two complimentary shampoos out of ten.

Stay tuned later this week for another edition of (Fourth) Rate the IL Hotel!


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