Convention center plans at A-State move forward - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Convention center plans at A-State move forward

(Source: Arkansas State University) (Source: Arkansas State University)
Plans for the first floor of the Red Wolf Regional Convention Center (Source: Arkansas State University) Plans for the first floor of the Red Wolf Regional Convention Center (Source: Arkansas State University)
JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) -

Arkansas State University said Tuesday it will build its own convention center on campus.

The Red Wolf Regional Convention Center and Embassy Suites will be located near the Convocation Center on the old track off Red Wolf Boulevard.

The Arkansas State University Board of Trustees agreed to lease the land to O’Reilly Hospitality.

The university will not pay for construction of the planned hotel and convention center; instead, it will just provide the land.

The project will include a 202-room Embassy Suites hotel; a 40,000 square-foot convention center; and a Houlihan's Restaurant. It will also include parking for 520 vehicles. (To see the preliminary design plans, click here.)

Earlier this month the Jonesboro Advertising & Promotion Commission voted to fund the Keller Family Hotel and Convention Center project.

Despite losing the A&P's money, O'Reilly Hospitality decided to press on.

"We have continued to work through the business model for this project, including receipt of a recent significant grant from the Delta Regional Authority," Tim O'Reilly, CEO of O'Reilly Hospitality said in a news release. "We have finalized the financial package and are awaiting the immediate approval by Hilton of our Embassy franchise application within the next 30 days.

The Delta Regional Authority approved a $404,983 investment into the project for site preparation and improvements at the 11-acre location.

Chris Masingill, federal co-chairman of the Delta Regional Authority, said the investment will "significantly contribute to Jonesboro's local economy...and the region's ability to attract visitors and investment from all over."

Dr. Tim Hudson, A-State's chancellor, said the university was "very appreciative" of the investment and he was "thrilled" to partner with O'Reilly.

"This innovative campus project will help define us further as a destination university," Hudson said. "This world-class Embassy Suites and Red Wolf Convention Center project enhances A-State’s role as a leading economic engine in the region, will bring to our community thousands of new visitors, and provides new opportunities for our students."

As to the other convention center, which will be built along Browns Lane Access Road off Interstate 555, O'Reilly said:

"It is unfortunate both that there appears to be a political competition of sorts regarding our project and another convention center project that has been attempted for many years, and that there is definitely not a market or opportunity to succeed for two convention centers in Jonesboro.  However, we have great faith in our partnership with A-State which when combined with the outpouring of support from many facets of the Jonesboro business and medical communities, the powerful Hilton/Embassy booking and global marketing and sales engine, and our team's experience and past success with this type of project, and we will press forward without hesitation and we will persevere and succeed in this market."

"This innovative campus project will help define us further as a destination university," Hudson said. "This world-class Embassy Suites and Red Wolf Convention Center project enhances A-State’s role as a leading economic engine in the region, will bring to our community thousands of new visitors, and provides new opportunities for our students."

A-State plans to use the Red Wolf Regional Convention Center and Embassy Suites hotel as a practicum for students enrolled in the hospitality management program offered by the Department of Marketing and Management in the College of Business.

College of Business students in the hospitality program will participate in a semester-long internship as part of the program requirements.

The university plans to develop the program initially as a minor, then expand it into a certification program and, eventually, a stand-alone major.

Architectural plans are currently being finalized. Construction could begin within 120 days and should last 15-16 months.

A groundbreaking ceremony and grand opening events are already being planned.  

The Keller Family plans to go forward with their convention center as well. 

Region 8 News spoke with Mayor Harold Perrin and he said both convention centers can survive in a city like Jonesboro. 

"It is going to be tough, but I still think there is going to be enough business here that can go around, maybe not as much as one would like but if run properly I think they both can survive," Perrin said. 

Perrin said he is happy both projects are moving forward. 

Region 8 News will have more information as details emerge. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for up to the minute updates.

Copyright 2016 KAIT. All rights reserved.

Region 8 News App - Install or update on your: iPhone | Android

Powered by Frankly