ASU considers building hotel, convention center on campus

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – Arkansas State University may soon add another new building to its campus in Jonesboro.

The university began accepting proposals Tuesday to possibly build a hotel and convention center on campus.

Plans call for the facility to be built on an 11-acre tract of land known as the "old track" between the baseball field and football stadium, though nothing is set in stone right now.

"This is just an opportunity that we wanted to look at not only to help our visitors but also the city of Jonesboro just to continue to grow and prosper," Shawnie Carrier said.

Carrier became the chancellor's chief of staff three months ago and took the lead on this project soon after she started. She currently heads up a committee with three vice chancellors, which recommended that two construction firms – Jonesboro Hotel & Convention Center, LLC, from Charleston, Illinois, and Texas-based Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, LLC – submit proposals to build a hotel and convention center on campus.

"We opened those [proposals] this morning, and the committee will review those," she said. "Once the committee reviews those, we will decide whether or not we're going to move forward with the project."

The proposals, she said, will address a lot of unknowns right now.

"In the request for proposals," Carrier said, "we asked for all kinds of examples of what this [facility] would look like, what the funding scope would look like, what the partnership would look like and creative solutions for that, how we would work together."

The hotel and convention center committee will meet next week to look over both proposals and then decide how to proceed. Carrier said ASU has yet to specify funding for this facility, but insisted that it will not mean any kind of tuition or fee increase for students.

"This is strictly an opportunity for us to look at the avenue of, is this a potential for us?" Carrier said. "We want to make sure that this is the best opportunity for us with minimal risk. Whichever one of those proposals exemplifies that, we'll move forward."

The university hopes that if it moves forward with these plans, it can develop a partnership with the city of Jonesboro since officials have worked repeatedly over the years to bring a convention center to town.

Mayor Harold Perrin told Region 8 News that he is "excited" to hear ASU has already accepted proposals for the hotel and convention center because the city still needs one.

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