JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Although construction has been ongoing for about six months now, an official groundbreaking was held Thursday for the hotel and convention center being built on A-State's campus.
City and university officials gathered to celebrate the large project.
The O'Reilly Hospitality Group is building an Embassy Suites Hotel on Arkansas State University's Jonesboro campus.
It will also house the Red Wolf Convention Center and a Houlihan's restaurant.
"I think it'll be a great attribute for both the university and the city and it'll be a gathering place, a central hub," said O'Reilly Hospitality CEO Tim O'Reilly.
The facility will also serve as a type of laboratory for the university's hospitality program.
Students will be able to take classes in a working environment as well as do internships there and be mentored by the managers.
"We're in the business of training, recruiting and retaining students and trying to bring them up into hospitality professionals," O'Reilly said. "It's a great industry and that's why I think the foresight of Dr. Welch and Dr. Damphousse of bringing a hospitality program to the main campus of Arkansas State is really smart."
Each speaker referenced the importance of partnerships between the O'Reilly group, the university, the city of Jonesboro, and Jonesboro's Advertising and Promotions Commission that made this happen.
"We've had great experiences with partnerships like this in the past but this one is special because it involves not just Arkansas State University but the entire community and actually the whole region of Northeast Arkansas," A-State Chancellor Dr. Kelly Damphousse said.
The hotel and convention center is expected to be open by August 2019.