The new £15m George Best Hotel overlooking Donegall Square in Belfast will feature a life-size statue of the legendary Northern Ireland and Manchester United footballer.
Due to open in November, the 80-bedroom hotel is being developed by Signature Living and the Best family. It will be the fourth football-themed hotel for the group, which already includes the Shankly Hotel in Liverpool, conceived as a tribute to Liverpool manager Bill Shankly, as well as the development of the Dixie Dean Hotel, named after the Everton player, and the Shankly Hotel in Preston for a combined cost of £27m.
The Best family have already donated a selection of items of memorabilia to the Belfast hotel, including replica European Cups, a silver Northern Ireland cap, paintings of the footballer and a shirt signed by many of the mourners who attended his funeral.
Lawrence Kenwright, chairman of Signature Living, 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 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 announced the first key appointments to the George Best Hotel including Damian Gilvary as general manager and Gareth Milligan as head of sales. Gilvary joins the property following a career with Hilton hotels in Belfast and Manchester. Milligan has also previously worked for Hilton.
Gilvary said: “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 is being created within the former Scottish & Mutual building as part of a wider £80m development by Signature Living of four hotels in Belfast. This will include the redevelopment of the Crumlin Road Court House to create the 150-bedroom Lanyon hotel and the Waring hotel, which will be sited in the former War Memorial Building.