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Ken Borland

Reborn Centurion Hotel marketing itself as sports-orientated destination

Posted on June 09, 2023 by Ken

The refurbished Centurion Hotel.
(Pic: Nicci Mitchell)

The popular Centurion Lake Hotel has been reborn as just The Centurion Hotel and is now marketing itself as a sports-orientated destination, which makes perfect sense given its close proximity to SuperSport Park and its historical connection with cricket in general.

SuperSport Park came into use in 1986, known then as Centurion Park, as the Northern Transvaal team moved from Pretoria to make their base there. Five years later, the Centurion Lake Hotel opened on the banks of the Hennops River, with the lake and its beautiful waterworks display being a popular gathering spot.

And, given it’s proximity to SuperSport Park (less than a kilometre away), the hotel quickly became the accommodation of choice for both teams playing against Northerns (who then became the Titans), as well as the television commentators for local and international games.

My first experience of the Centurion Lake Hotel happened way back in February 1996 when I travelled up from Pietermaritzburg to cover the final match of the Castle Cup season between Natal and Northern Transvaal for The Natal Witness newspaper.

Natal were chasing a second-successive four-day title, but their hopes were cruelly dashed as the last two days of their match against Northerns were washed out. Instead of one of my earlier away ‘tours’ as a journalist ending in a triumphant celebration of taking the crown, it turned into utter frustration as us visitors watched the rain fall for two long and gloomy days, allowing Western Province, who were eight points behind Natal, to sneak in and win the competition.

Natal did reclaim the four-day crown, renamed the SuperSport Series, in the 1996/97 season, so but for rain they could have completed the first hat-trick of titles since the Transvaal Mean Machine did it in the early 1980s. The washout also denied the great Malcolm Marshall the send-off he deserved for everything he did for Natal cricket, the West Indian legend departing to coach his national team at the end of the season. Even more sadly, the genial, inspirational Marshall succumbed to colon cancer in November 1999.

Commentator Brett Proctor, another considerable figure in Natal cricket, having played, selected and been the stadium manager at Kingsmead, was also staying at the hotel along with the rest of SuperSport’s team. Ever gracious and happy to talk cricket, I remember fondly our chats during the week. Brett is, of course, still an invaluable part of the SuperSport commentary line-up.

Many famous former cricketers stayed at the Centurion Lake Hotel and it was clearly a most convivial spot for them to unwind after the day’s play. Thanks to their presence, the hotel built up an impressive collection of memorabilia and that will be highlighted as each floor is refurbished.

However, one or two commentators down through the years would mention how their rental car left in the underground parking had floated off when the Hennops River burst its banks and the big flood of 2019, followed shortly afterwards by Covid, was why the hotel closed down for three years.

But extensive work has gone into changing the shape of the response to the inevitable floods that come every summer.

“We have built a big wall that will prevent the flooding of the hotel, along with five-ton sluice gates and a monitoring system,” general manager Kamala Douglas pointed out.

The lake itself has also been a problem, many different issues being involved including the build-up of silt, pollution and litter, theft of metal grids and foul smells emanating from the water. But the council has embarked on an ambitious rehabilitation programme to restore the natural flow of the river and, looking down on the lake from our fourth-floor room window, the signs were promising with heavy machinery hard at work. According to Douglas, the plan is to build up sandbanks which will then have grass planted on them, creating a lovely natural area ideal for picnics.

The Centurion Lake Hotel was a four-star establishment, but the new Centurion Hotel is three stars.

The lounge area next to the bar.
Pic: Ken Borland

“We are now a three-star hotel because it is more cost-effective. But the rooms are the same and the sizes and standards of everything are still the same too. It allows us to have a light, self-service breakfast,” Douglas explained.

“Each floor will be representing a certain sport, with world record-holders and legends on the walls, as we push the whole sporting connection. We have also lightened the passages, taken out the curtains and modernized a bit. There are also plans for updated showers in all the rooms,” she said.

The rooms are certainly spacious and well-appointed, with tasteful décor and comfortable beds. The twin rooms, unusually, have queen-size beds, and suites are especially spacious.

Our room (excuse the slept-in bed).
Pic: Ken Borland

The hotel has direct access to the Centurion Mall, which is hugely convenient. But if one wants to stay in and eat, then Bruno’s Restaurant and the bar are both very cosy. There is quality food to cater for all tastes, coming out of an older, bigger kitchen than is the norm in modern hotels.

Bruno’s Restaurant.
Pic: Ken Borland

That also makes the Centurion Hotel an ideal functions and conferencing venue.

There is a large ballroom that can fit 170 people and six fully-catered conference rooms can be hired for R450 per head per day, which is an attractive deal. They are very smart, boardroom-type venues with modernised tech, and there is not much else in the area when it comes to conferencing facilities.

The hotel boasts various hospitality areas and exterior adjustments are planned to create something of a summer oasis by the pool overlooking the lake. Big-screen TVs will also be installed in this area.

One of the corridors with its lovely finishes.
Pic: Ken Borland

Despite all this modernisation, the Centurion Hotel still maintains a distinct, classic charm. Perhaps it is all the lovely old wooden finishes around the place, but it almost feels as if one has retreated to a relaxed rural hotel out in nature, and yet one is in the centre of one of the busiest parts of Gauteng.

The Centurion Hotel’s star is certainly rising once again.

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