Businesses announce support of ASU-supported convention center project

by Michael Wilkey ([email protected]) 214 views 

Developer Josh Brown said Monday that a project to build a convention center at Arkansas State University is an “all-star project,” drawing support from a wide variety of businesses.

Brown, through development company Haag Brown, announced that at least a dozen businesses including Centennial Bank, NEA Baptist, St. Bernard’s Healthcare and Tiger Correctional Services, were endorsing the ASU project. The ASU Board of Trustees voted 3-2 Friday to approve the project, which will include a 202-room hotel, 40,000 square foot conference center and a Houlihan’s restaurant.

The endorsements are important because a competing project is also being planned along U.S. 63. Illinois-based Keller Management plans to build a 159-room hotel, a 37,000 square foot convention center and possibly a second hotel on a 40-acre site near the former Arkansas Services Center. The Keller deal has been pushed by Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin.

In the announcement, Brown said the location of the convention center, especially near the ASU Convocation Center and the Fowler Center (an arts center), will draw people to the area.

“It has the top developer for hotel projects in towns the size of Jonesboro (Tim O’Reilly), the best flag (for hotels),” Brown said. “It is the best project by far.”

Brown said he does not have a “dog in the fight” in the convention center debate and would not speak negatively of the Keller project.

“I know those guys and would like to see them succeed,” Brown said.

However, Brown said he will begin a campaign this week to support the O’Reilly project in time for a key meeting Wednesday (March 2). The Jonesboro Advertising and Promotion Commission will meet at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Jonesboro Chamber of Commerce to decide on funding requests for both the O’Reilly and Keller projects.

O’Reilly is requesting $200,000 a year plus rebates over a 10-year period while Keller is asking for $150,000 a year for three years plus a return on all room tax revenue that the hotel receives.