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Washington State University

Office of the PResident

Elson S. Floyd, Ph.D. - 3/31/10

Building a Hotel-Conference Center

Even through uncertain economic times, Washington State University has received the capital funding support we have needed to expand the academic and research facilities on our campuses. That growth is fundamental to the future of our university.

Some vital investments, however, will not come from the state or from our generous donors. They must come from the private sector. One example is the proposed hotel-conference center.

For years, it’s been clear that our Pullman campus needs such a center, which would provide space for larger gatherings and rooms for visitors coming to town for university events. A 2002 feasibility study found a strong demand among academic units for a site to hold professional conferences. Those would bring colleagues to Pullman, enhance learning opportunities, and provide an economic boost to the area.

Over the years, we have explored options for such a facility, but the pieces never have fallen into place.

Now, following our issuance of a request for proposals for the project earlier this year, the Board of Regents has given us approval to negotiate with Sonnenblick-Del Rio Development from Brentwood, California, for the sale of approximately 7.5 acres of WSU property located east of the Student Recreation Center.

The company is proposing an Embassy Suites 125-unit hotel, along with a convention center of up to 12,000 square feet. The company is also discussing the possibility of providing some extended-stay units, which would meet another campus need.

If the negotiations are successful, the new facility could be in place by the beginning of the 2012 academic year.

I would like to stress a few points about this project. The company’s proposal calls for it to purchase the land at its appraised price; the project will be financed privately, not by the university. So this will not be a university subsidized or operated project.

There will, however, be opportunities for partnerships. Our Pullman campus is home to an outstanding School of Hospitality and Business Management, and officials of Hilton Worldwide, which operates Embassy Suites, have expressed interest in working with the school to provide learning opportunities for students.

The hotel’s proposed location—near both the Student Recreation Center and our golf course at Palouse Ridge, which is rated as one of the finest new courses in the nation—should allow more people from outside campus to take advantage of these world-class facilities.

Based on the progress that has been made in recent months, I am more optimistic than ever that this long-awaited and badly needed project will become a reality. We will be providing updates as this development moves forward toward what we hope will be a successful conclusion.