TAMPA Ward Cook remembers what it was like to play music at the Floridan Hotel decades ago.
So when he looks at the splendor surrounding him in the historic downtown hotel, set to reopen Monday after years of renovations, he pauses.
"I had to spend a little time picking my jaw up off the floor," Cook said. "They have done a fantastic job."
Antonios Markopoulos spent $6 million in 2005 for the building, which Cook joked was in such bad shape that even the homeless didn't want to seek shelter there.
The owner's son, Angelo Markopoulos, said the hotel that first opened in 1927 looked like a missile had hit it. Birds had made it their home through broken windows. Water had reached from the top of the hotel's 19th story to the ground floor.
It was in total disarray.
"I looked at my father and said, 'Are you kidding me? Are you joking with me?' " Angelo Markopoulos said. "But he loves a challenge."
Seven years after the purchase, the hotel will reopen for business Monday as the Floridan Palace Hotel, two days after the grand opening ceremony set for this evening.
The grand ballroom, which seats 600, is ready to host today's big splash.
The Crystal Dining Room, which can accommodate more than 150 people, will open for dinner Monday.
The lobby bar, complete with the original cedar ceiling, also will open Monday.
Work continues, however, on the downstairs Sapphire Room, which is expected to open by the end of next week. That's where celebrities used to enjoy a drink or two when the hotel was a crown jewel downtown.
A stroll in the lobby of the historic hotel, which closed its doors in 1989, is like a step back in time.
The original front desk is in the lobby. So are the little cubbies behind the front desk for all the rooms. The stairs are original; so are the railings. They've all been restored to their proper grandeur.
A team of women worked at the hotel to sew all of the curtains. A group of men, meanwhile, worked on the wood that is used in the hotel's bars.
It was a labor of love by all that finally has reached its crescendo.
"I love it," Angelo Markopoulos said. "I think this is a special place. The gratitude I see in my father's face is priceless."
Rates will range from $189 to $275 for the hotel's 213 rooms. The previous Floridan had more than 400 rooms, but those were torn apart and made larger for the reopening.
There will also be 15 junior suites and three penthouse suites. Prices for those have not been set yet.
The hotel is fully booked for the Republic National Convention next month.
For information on the hotel, call (813) 225-1700.