When Shane Victorino hit the grand slam that propelled the Red Sox into the World Series late Saturday night, Hotel Commonwealth was ready. Knowing the first two games of the World Series would be played around the corner at Fenway Park if the Sox beat the Detroit Tigers, general manager Adam Sperling had kept about 20 rooms open.
He brought in an extra staff member to take reservations overnight and set rates for Wednesday and Thursday at the top level, around $600 a night.
His foresight paid off.
“Between 12:02 a.m. when the game ended on Saturday and before the sun came up on Sunday, they were gone,” Sperling said.
Hotels in Boston are already stretched to capacity in October, with convention-goers, leaf peepers, and Head of the Charles fans out in full force. Add the World Series, and you have a sold-out market, extending to the suburbs and beyond. This has sent room rates soaring, with prices as high as $1,000 a night on Expedia and travelers scrambling to find a place to stay.
“You piece this all together, it is perfectly designed to sell out not only the city but spread at least within a 50- to 60-mile radius,” said Paul Sacco, president of the Massachusetts Lodging Association.
The Revere Hotel in the Back Bay was already sold out when the Sox clinched the pennant on Saturday night, but had two cancellations earlier this week for the opening games.
When the hotel made the rooms available at $800 a night, about double the normal rate for this time of year, they were snapped up within half an hour.
The staff has been tracking the Red Sox games since before the playoffs, calculating how each win and loss could affect the team’s post-season and the hotel’s business.
“Everyone here has become a baseball expert if they weren’t one,” said general manager Simon Mais.
At the Westin Copley Place, which sold its last rooms at $600 a night, managers looked at bookings during the 2004 World Series, when the Red Sox also played the St. Louis Cardinals, to see what demand might be like this year. Some teams’ fans “travel well,” meaning they show up for away games, said general manager Ray Hammer, and St. Louis is one of those teams.
Big events taking place in a peak season in a tight market like Boston allow hotels to charge their top rates, which usually only happens a few times a year, said Matthew Arrants, executive vice president at the hospitality consultancy Pinnacle Advisory Group
And as the Red Sox got closer to the World Series, rates inched up; at the Hotel Commonwealth, rooms that went for about $400 in the division series were $500 for the league championship and $600 for the World Series
Even the Holiday Inn Express in Lawrence, some 30 miles from Fenway, is hopping. It’s a no-frills place without room service — although guests get a free breakfast buffet of eggs, sausages, and cinnamon rolls.
But with a $139 price, and a few rooms still available earlier this week, the hotel has attracted some Red Sox fans, said general manager Molly Mulholland, who brought in an extra breakfast attendant and housekeeper to keep up with demand.
“Some want to be in the chaos,” she said, “others choose to be away from it.”
Mike Morgan is ready to embrace the chaos, but he can’t find a hotel room that will let him. Morgan lives in Pepperell, but because he has to work as the executive producer at the Karson & Kennedy show at Mix 104.1 in Brighton at 4:30 a.m. Friday, he planned to get a hotel room in the city after going to the game Thursday night. No such luck.
After spending hours trying to find a place, he’s considering spending the night on a recliner at the radio station.
“If it was Game 7, I’d sleep in the street,” Morgan said.
Those who started making World Series reservations in September fared much better. The Howard Johnson Hotel on Boylston Street sold out a month ago, with rates as low as $145 for regular guests. Still, the calls keep coming.
“The phone hasn’t stopped ringing,” said front desk clerk Larry Bavis, who estimates more than 100 people have called since Monday. “It’s actually a pain in the butt.”
What hoteliers really want is for the series to extend to Games 6 and 7, which would be played in Boston Oct. 30 and 31, said Andrea Foster, vice president at PKF Consulting USA.
The last week of October is usually fairly weak because business travelers want to be at home with their kids for Halloween, she said. The games would bring in a healthy crowd, and, fans will be happy to note, at much more reasonable rates than this week.