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Gonzaga Basketball

Hotel labor dispute could impact Gonzaga’s, fans’ Maui trip

The Zags pose with a souvenir surfboard from the Maui Invitational during Kraziness in the Kennel in early October. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

The Maui Invitational annually serves up stunning scenery, warm ocean breezes and the best holiday tournament college basketball has to offer.

That won’t change next week with a loaded field that includes No. 1 Duke, No. 3 Gonzaga and No. 9 Auburn, but several teams, including GU, and their fans might experience some disruptions because of a hotel workers strike.

Gonzaga and at least 140 Zags fans are staying at the Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa, one of numerous Marriott properties in the U.S. impacted by a labor dispute. Marriott reached an agreement with the hotel workers union in San Jose, California; San Diego; Oakland, California; and Detroit last week, but strikes continue in Boston, San Francisco, Honolulu and Maui.

The Zags stayed at the Sheraton on their three previous trips to Maui. Hotels are assigned by tournament officials and partners. Attempting to change accommodations, especially during a busy holiday week, isn’t a feasible option, said Chris Standiford, GU deputy director of athletics.

“The anxiety we have is for our fans, just the unknowns,” Standiford said. “We got notification (Monday) that basically outlines what they’re trying to do to lessen the impact on people staying at the hotel.

“I think they’re flying in staff to ramp up support. We’ve been told they’ve re-engaged in negotiations and it sounds like they’ve made good progress.”

Hotel workers are asking for higher wages and improved benefits packages. They’ve been on strike since early October.

“I know we’ve made some progress,” said Levi Pine, customer outreach for Unite Here, the hotel workers union. “But we’re going to be out until we get what we need.”

Iowa State, San Diego State and Xavier are scheduled to stay at the Sheraton, Pine said. A few pretournament events have been moved to the Hyatt.

Areas impacted include linen service, which will be done every other day, room service and food and beverage options. No changes are expected with the front desk, concierge desk, telephone operators, security, pools, spa, fitness center and water sports activities. The shuttle service will continue, but drop-off and pick-up will be at the Westin.

Sheraton guests are expected to receive a daily $50 credit per room for food/beverage or water sports equipment as well as complimentary self-parking and complimentary resort fees.

“It’ll probably be a bummer,” said Pine, when asked what fans should expect.

Standiford is far more optimistic. The team typically schedules meals with film sessions at road hotels and Standiford anticipates arrangements with on-site catering.

“The last two weeks, the tournament has stepped up and is very engaged in facilitating conversations and helping get solutions,” he said. “We’ve stayed there every time and it’s been a great property for us. Hopefully, it will be for this trip, too.”