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JONESBORO — Arkansas State University plans to consider a public-private partnership that would develop a hotel and conference center on campus and bolster the Northeast Arkansas economy through increased tourism, Chancellor Tim Hudson said today.
The university is evaluating proposals received through the procurement process from two hotel development firms for the project, which would serve many needs and opportunities for both A-State and Northeast Arkansas.
“We are continually looking for ways to enhance learning for our students, increase revenues for the university and serve our city and region,” Hudson said. “This development could have a positive impact in each of those areas.”
The university’s preferred site for the hotel and convention center is between Red Wolf Boulevard (U.S. 49) and Olympic Drive where the track and field complex was previously located. The site is surrounded by Liberty Bank Stadium, the Convo and Fowler Center.
“This location would be convenient for overnight visitors attending events on campus,” said Shawnie Carrier, the chancellor’s Chief of Staff, who is the project coordinator. “It would allow conventions to take advantage of our additional meeting space in the vicinity, and it’s convenient to access from Red Wolf Boulevard.”
Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin has indicated his support for the project and wants to see it come to fruition, Carrier said, and A-State hopes that a partnership will lead to a positive outcome. She added that increasing the number of conventions and visitors to the city would help retailers, restaurants, and other lodging businesses.
The two firms that submitted proposals are Wallace Bajjali Development Partners LP of Sugar Land, Texas, in partnership with O’Reilly Hospitality Management LLC, and Jonesboro Hotel and Convention Center LLC, led by the Keller family of Effingham, Ill.
Wallace Bajjali proposes a 150-bed hotel and a conference/meetings facility of up to 75,000 square feet. The proposal does not identify a specific hotel brand but notes that O’Reilly has existing relationships with the Hilton, Holiday Inn and Wyndham family of brands.
Jonesboro Hotel and Convention Center proposes a 150-plus room “luxury select service hotel” and specifically identifies Hyatt Place as its proposed brand. The proposal outlines a 30,000-plus-square-foot convention center and a 45,000-square-foot exhibit hall.
Both proposals outline support, including classroom space and internships, for a hospitality management degree program that is being considered by A-State.
Carrier said an A-State committee she chairs would review the proposals and interview the firms during the next two weeks, then make a recommendation to Hudson.
“We have many details to consider before proceeding with this project,” Hudson said. “But the concept has merit and is worth pursuing as another transformative possibility for our university and for Northeast Arkansas.”