Arkansas State University is negotiating a deal with O’Reilly Hospitality Management LLC for a land lease agreement that could eventually bring an Embassy Suites hotel, a conference center and Houlihan’s restaurant to the growing Northeast Arkansas campus, university Chancellor Tim Hudson announced Friday.
The project, which O’Reilly is expected to invest between $35 million and $45 million, is designed to bolster the Northeast Arkansas economy through increased tourism, serve A-State constituencies and generate auxiliary revenue for the university, Hudson said. The university would also receive revenue from the development.
“We’re encouraged by the opportunities to enhance learning for our students, increase revenues for the university and serve our city and region,” said Hudson, noting the university would work with O’Reilly to incorporate joint educational opportunities and internships in areas such as hospitality management and marketing.
“The initial feasibility study feedback indicates market demand for these facilities. We look forward to working with Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin and other city leaders as we escalate Arkansas State’s position as a destination and a driver for tourism and hospitality related economic growth,” he said.
As CEO of the Springfield, Mo.- based hotel group, Tim O’Reilly is a franchisee of Hilton Worldwide. The proposed facility would have nearly 200 full-service rooms, with plans for a 40,000- to 50,000-square-foot conference center with a Houlihan’s franchise restaurant attached.
The university and O’Reilly are looking at a preferred location for the hotel and convention center on an 11-acre site between Red Wolf Blvd. (U.S. 49) and Olympic Drive, near the former ASU track and field complex. Currently, Centennial Bank Stadium, the Convo, Fowler Center and Cooper Alumni Center surround the site.
O’Reilly was chosen through a procurement process for the project, officials said.
“We’re excited about partnering with Arkansas State and the city of Jonesboro to develop a modern, full-service hotel and meeting space in northeast Arkansas,” O’Reilly said. “Ultimately this development will have a substantial positive impact on the region and make Jonesboro competitive to attract dozens of state and regional events.”
Shawnie Carrier, the chancellor’s Chief of Staff and interim director of the Delta Center for Economic Development, said a feasibility study is being conducted by HVS Consulting and Valuation Services, a division of TS Worldwide LLC. Carrier, the project leader for A-State, said the results are expected soon.
“We all see long-term strength in the local hotel market and a location that will be convenient for overnight visitors attending events on campus,” Carrier said. “The conference center will drive business not only to our hotel and restaurant, but also to many other lodging and dining facilities.”
Perrin said he has advocated a conference center and full-service hotel for seven years.
“Increasing the number of conventions and visitors to the city will help retailers, restaurants and other hotels,” he said. “The impact on our city will be enormous, and we will do everything we can to support the efforts of Arkansas State and O’Reilly Hospitality.”
A-State and O’Reilly are negotiating the land lease agreement for the project with a planned construction start scheduled for the second half of 2015.
According O’Reilly officials, the Springfield hotel management group has developed and manages upscale full and select service hotels and resorts primarily across the Midwest, including the Doubletree by Hilton in Springfield, the Holiday Inn City Center in Tulsa, Okla., the Yellowstone Valley Lodge in Livingston Mt., and the Baymont Inn & Suites in the Branson area.
The hotel developer has several new ground-up projects currently underway in Plano, Texas, Phoenix and Springfield. The company also manages three Houlihan’s restaurants located in Columbia, Mo., and Springfield.