For Virginia Haley, the Hyatt Regency represents more than a major tourist destination. It’s also the place she landed her current job as president of Visit Sarasota County (“It was called the Convention and Visitors Bureau back then.)” Board members took over a two-story suite on the top level of the iconic hotel and quizzed Haley and other finalists for the job about what makes Sarasota tourism special. “I was a nervous wreck,” Haley said. “Then I found out when I was downstairs that I had won the job. So there’s a very personal connection to me.”

That will make it all the more bittersweet a year from now when the Hyatt collapses and Kolter Urban begins construction on a new Thompson Hotel. And while Haley said tourism leaders will certainly welcome a new luxury resort alongside the Ritz-Carlton, Westin and other waterfront resorts, there’s no question the region will feel the loss. The Hyatt opened in 1973, and with massive conference space and a beachfront destination, the facility put Sarasota on the map as a business tourism destination. Countless John Deer conventions, Chamber of Commerce luncheons and political galas took place in the cavernous first floor hall.

“The Hyatt was the only substantial hotel on the mainland until the Ritz-Carlton was built,” said Andy Dorr, a Gilbane executive who worked for Githler Development on a major Hyatt renovation. It hosted many important community and family events such as weddings and other things that we all hold dear. The list is too large to mention.”

Haley said the modern Sarasota destination in many ways sprung forth because Hyatt paved the way. And even when most luxurious competitors opened their doors, the Hyatt offered an accessible appeal, making it a place many in the community visited numerous times whether they ever stayed a night in a room there. “Countless big meetings have been held there by every alphabet group there is in Tallahassee — various ‘State Association of Fill-in-the-Blank,” she said. But there have been national conferences too. We hosted a biggie a few years ago with the Southeast Tourism Society.”

Dorr said he will miss the Hyatt but also knows the nature of the business remains an evolving one. “It is a mid-century classic building and in some ways sad to see it go but things also need to change,” he said. “We need to wait and see what the proposed replacement develop plans are in judge whether the replacement buildings are as good or even better than what was there today.”