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Norman hotel formerly geared to postal training opens doors wider to public

National Center for Employee Development in southeast Norman sees declining postal service demand for its full-service hotel.
BY ANNETTE PRICE Published: March 10, 2012

The center also offers courses in heating and air conditioning and roof repair. It houses one of the few elevator schools in the country.

“While we are akin to a vo-tech, we are a more intense version,” Vannoy said.

For instance, the center offers a 120-hour welding course in three weeks, whereas a traditional technology center may offer the course over several months.

In addition to reactive maintenance, the center uses infrared thermography and airborne ultrasound to teach preventive maintenance.

“By looking at a heat signature,” Vannoy said, “we can tell a bearing is going bad about four months before it goes into catastrophic failure. The postal service has gotten heavy into these technologies since 2006, and we probably have the largest predictive maintenance program in the world right now.”

The center's hotel manger, Yves Badaroux, hopes some of the slack in the center's capacity can be taken up by outside visitors. Currently, about 20 percent of the hotel's guests are nonpostal, and that number is rising.

“It used to be in the low single digits a few years ago, but that's our main effort right now, is to market to the public,” Badaroux said.

OU football dates

The hotel is attracting lots of overnight guests on the University of Oklahoma's home football game days, but Badaroux says he's afraid many people don't know the full capacities of the Marriott-managed hotel. If they ventured into the doors at 2801 E State Highway 9, they might be surprised.

The hotel includes a Route 66 bar and lounge, indoor and outdoor volleyball courts, a full-service salon, lunch and dinner buffets, a full-size gymnasium, a saltwater swimming pool, and fitness amenities such as a large equipment room, a studio offering salsa and belly-dancing classes, and a fitness evaluation center.

The hotel, whose chef harvests herbs out of the carefully tended courtyard garden, also serves as a conference center with a ballroom that can accommodate 800 people. Badaroux said the center hosted about 2,500 guests for the Firehouse Art Center's annual Chocolate Festival in February, and has been asked to serve as the event's site for next year.

The center's campus is a self-sustained village for trainees by design.

“Because they're away from home for so long, we basically wanted them to have all the comforts of home. It makes it easier for them to be away from home, but it also enhances the learning. If they're comfortable and they have what they need, we believe it makes the learning experience that much better for them,” Warrick said.

We are the national training center. There is no other one like us, so whatever training is required around our maintenance operation, we'll provide it.”

Paul Warrick

Manager of The National Center

for Employee Development


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