Arkansas State University said Friday that it is negotiating with O’Reilly Hospitality Management LLC of Springfield, Missouri, for a land lease agreement to develop an Embassy Suites hotel, a conference center and Houlihan’s restaurant on campus.
Chancellor Tim Hudson announced the project in a news release. A-State and O’Reilly are negotiating with an eye toward construction in the second half of the year.
Hudson said the university would receive revenue from the development; O’Reilly Hospitality would invest between $35 million and $45 million to finance the project.
“We’re encouraged by the opportunities to enhance learning for our students, increase revenues for the university and serve our city and region,” Hudson said. “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.”
Arkansas State has been working since 2013 to establish a hotel and convention center complex that would occupy an 11-acre tract between the university’s baseball field and football stadium. University officials envision the complex having joint educational opportunities and internships in areas such as hospitality management and marketing.
O’Reilly’s proposal includes 200-room Embassy Suites, a 40,000- to 50,000-SF conference center and a Houlihan’s franchise restaurant. Shawnie Carrier, the chancellor’s chief of staff and interim director of the Delta Center for Economic Development, said CEO Tim O’Reilly is working through the franchise process with Hilton Worldwide, which owns the Embassy Suites brand.
Meanwhile, Carrier said, A-State is awaiting final results of a feasibility study on the project by HVS Consulting & Valuation Services, which consults on hotel real estate. Carrier said the results of the study could inform the final details of the project.
Carrier said negotiations with O’Reilly could be complete within 90 days.
The city of Jonesboro has long been in the hunt for a convention center and full-service hotel. In the news release, Perrin said he is “thrilled” to see progress.
“Increasing the number of conventions and visitors to the city will help retailers, restaurants and other hotels,” the mayor 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.”
The university had previously been in talks with Jonesboro Hotel & Convention Center LLC of Effingham, Illinois, for the hotel and convention center project. That group was led by the Keller family of Illinois and was associated with Jerry Halsey of Halsey Real Estate Inc. in Jonesboro.
The preferred site for the hotel and convention center lies between Red Wolf Boulevard, or U.S. 49, and Olympic Drive on 11 acres where the track and field complex was previously located. The site is surrounded by Liberty Bank Stadium, the Convocation Center and the Fowler Center.
In a separate project, Arkansas State is partnering with Haag Brown Commercial of Jonesboro to develop a 26-acre tract at the northeast corner of campus for commercial use.