Sports team visits provide a change of pace for downtown's historic Westin Columbus hotel

National news outlets gave Columbus props yesterday as the city hosted the U.S. and Mexico in the 2014 World Cup Qualifier. It was the fourth time the match has been hosted in Columbus Crew stadium.

The intimate soccer stadium and rowdy Columbus fans are credited with spurring the U.S. to victory, but the venue has long been a mecca for Central Ohio's Hispanic soccer fanbase.

"You see a great synergy between the American fans and the Hispanic fans," said Luis Orozco (the South American native who named the Columbus Crew in 1995) during an interview with Columbus CEO for last April's "Selling Soccer" cover story on the Crew and Crew stadium.

Mexico fans tracked the team to the Westin Columbus hotel, where players and staff stayed for the World Cup match.

"We feel honored to have the opportunity to host them. Our staff loves it," says Phil BeMiller, director of sales and marketing for Westin Columbus. BeMiller says that a large number of the hotel's employees are Hispanic, and that word of the team's stay spread quickly. "It creates a lot of buzz and energy in the hotel. We had a lot of fans who were hanging around the last couple days."

Hosting an international sports team is different than hosting a corporate event or conventioneers says BeMiller. The Westin contracted extra security for the team's three-day stay. Two entire floors of the hotel were blocked off for the team, and hotel staffers had strict instructions as to when they could access the floors and clean the rooms.

"There's extensive leg-work prior to them arriving. We had several pre-arrival staff meetings to just kind of be prepared, get everything in order. A lot of interaction with them on their needs, special needs, dietary needs," says BeMiller. The team chef worked closely with the Westin food and beverage staff to plan and prepare team meals.

The Westin's national sales manager booked Mexico's return visit to the historic hotel-and turned away a request from the U.S. team shortly after doing so. "We're not large enough to accommodate both appropriately, so we couldn't have done it anyway. But it wouldn't be a good thing to do both--I don't think either team would appreciate it," says BeMiller, who says team Mexico is always a welcome guest in the Columbus Westin. "For the people from Mexico, it's a huge deal" to see their players, even from behind hotel barricades.