Dual convention center projects move forward in Jonesboro

by George Jared ([email protected]) 307 views 

A proposed convention center/hotel on the Arkansas State University campus will be built, even if another proposed convention in Jonesboro doubles in size.

O’Reilly Hospitality Management of Springfield Mo., will build a 202-bed Embassy Suites Hotel, a Houlihan’s Restaurant, and the 40,000-square-foot Red Wolf Convention Center, CEO Tim O’Reilly told Talk Business & Politics. CFK Hospitality initially planned to build a similarly sized convention center and a 165-room Hyatt Place Hotel just off Caraway Road near Interstate 555, but the convention center will nearly double in size to 78,000-square-feet if an updated proposal is approved by the state.

O’Reilly isn’t concerned about the competing project. His focus is on his own hotel and convention center, he said. Dirt work on the $50 million project has already started, and it’s tentatively scheduled to be completed in early 2018. At this point there are no plans to make any major changes, he added.

“We’re too far down the road on this project … we will complete it,” he said.

CFK Hospitality doubled their convention center’s size to take advantage of tax credits offered by the state. The convention center had to be at least 75,000-square-feet to qualify, according to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. If it’s approved, the project could qualify for up to $7.5 million in tax credits. It’s also slated to be completed in early 2018.

The project must be approved jointly by AEDC and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, according to state law. It’s still being mulled by officials and no decision has been rendered as of yet, AEDC spokesman Scott Hardin previously told Talk Business & Politics. It should be decided within a week.

If approved, the project will get a 15% sales tax credit on its state approved expenses, which will more than likely include most, if not all, the $50 million price tag. An exact total cannot be calculated until the receipts from the construction work are actually counted by the state, he said.

The expansion is the latest salvo fired in an ongoing battle between the competing convention center projects.

In February, the Jonesboro A&P Commission voted 3-2 to give the Keller Family Hyatt project group, which is now CFK, $300,000 in advertising revenue to support their hotel and convention center project. CFK also received a hotel tax forgiveness of $200,000 per year for up to three years once the project is complete.

The decision to choose CFK over the O’Reilly proposal was contentious. O’Reilly said previously that a moratorium has been put into place for at least another 16 months until they can return to the A&P to ask for tax incentives. The company plans to petition the commission once the moratorium ends. Jonesboro has a 3-cent hotel tax that funds A&P.