Done deal for one Jonesboro convention center project

Jonesboro may get two convention centers

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Jonesboro could go from having no convention centers to two separate ones.

The Keller Family has been working for years to bring a convention center to Jonesboro and Wednesday the project was finalized with the stroke of a pen.

Gary Harpole with Halsey Thrasher Harpole LLC told Region 8 News that North Arkansas Hotel and Convention Center purchased 13 acres along Browns Lane Access Road.

The project, which will include a convention center and a hotel, will be located at the former City Services Center.

The family bought 37,000 acres of land. This land will include a 159 room Hyatt Place, a convention center and a second hotel in the future.

The Keller family has been in the hotel business for over 50 years and run the convention center out of Effingham, Ill., and they are excited to expand in Jonesboro.

"We are very excited with our local partners to begin the process of finalizing the site work and getting the hotel and convention center project underway," project financial consultant, Forrest Langenfeld said.

The convention center and hotel will be built along the future I-555 heading to Memphis.

According to Langenfeld, the project will bring in around 325 construction jobs and 100 permanent jobs.

After finalizing the land purchase Wednesday morning, the family and investors went to the A&P commission to present their project.

The North Arkansas Hotel and Convention Center asked for $150,000 a year for three years plus what they collect on hotel tax.

One A&P commission member motioned to give the group $150,000 the first year, $100,000 the next and $50,000 on the third plus taxes back. The motion was not seconded by anyone so the proposal died on the floor.

Several commission members wanted extra time to go over the project and compare it with the other proposed convention center by Arkansas State University.

"It is good that they got to hear both presentations and see the exciting plans for Jonesboro, the community is in a wonderful position having possibly two facilities," Langenfeld said

Langenfeld said even though they did not get the money approval today, the project is still moving forward.

"The A&P Commission has the responsibility of comparing projects and making sure what happens," Langenfeld. "One nice thing about our project is we are in a position to move forward and we are going to move forward."

The Keller family plans to break ground at the site in late March or early April and they expect the project to be finished in mid-2017.

The Arkansas State University convention center is moving forward now as well.

The convention center proposal and plans are on the next school board agenda in two weeks.

The school's convention center will be on University property across from the Farmer's Market.

The hotel for this project will be Embassy Suites and will have 202 rooms on 40,000 square acres.

The school also proposed plans to add a hospitality management department to help with the hotel and convention center.

Both projects have gone before A&P in separate meetings asking for money.

"We are appreciative of the time they gave us today and feel very comfortable they will choose to help us when all said and done," Langenfeld said.

Several Arkansas State University representatives were at the A&P meeting Wednesday as well. They said their project will move forward when the board approves it.

The next A&P meeting regarding these two convention centers will be held March 2.

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