Hospitality Learning Center - FAQs
Q: What is the MSU Denver Hotel and Hospitality Learning Center?
A: MSU Denver’s Hotel and Hospitality Learning Center (HLC) is a fully functioning, professionally managed and flagged hotel with conference facilities and, simultaneously, a state-of-the-art teaching and learning facility for the University’s Hospitality, Tourism and Events (HTE) students and faculty. The HLC incorporates classrooms, specialty learning labs and faculty offices. The hotel will provide real-world training opportunities for students in the HTE Department and will be a learning facility for both the hotel operator and HTE faculty.
Q : What is MSU Denver’s Hospitality, Tourism and Events Program?
A: Hospitality/tourism is one of the pillars of Colorado’s economy, bringing $13.9 billion to the state in 2009. Such a robust economic sector requires highly skilled professionals. MSU Denver’s HTE Program offers bachelor’s degrees in the management of hotels, restaurants, tourism and events.
Q: How many students are enrolled in the HTE Program?
A: After steady enrollment growth over the last seven years, the department now enrolls more than 600 declared HTE majors. This continuing growth assures a large training and hiring pool of management-level professionals for the region’s important hospitality industry. HTE graduates consistently receive top marks from their employers and have been on winning teams competing in events such as Colorado’s Bistro Challenge.
Q: Where is the Hotel and Hospitality Learning Center located?
A: On the Auraria Campus just west of the corner of southbound Speer Boulevard and Auraria Parkway on the former location of the tennis courts.
Q: How big is the HLC?
A: 150 hotel rooms, 5,000 square feet of conference space and 28,000 square feet of academic space.
Q: What is the cost of the project?
A: The total estimated project cost is $45 million. Bonds were issued in November 2010.
Q: What is the construction timeline?
A: Design was completed in 2010. Demolition and site preparation began in January 2011. Groundbreaking was held on March 31, 2011. The SpringHill Suites® Denver Downtown opened in August 2012. The Learning Center opening celebration with tours for the campus was Sept. 14, 2012 and a gala grand opening was held on Sept. 27, 2012.
Q: Are there other hospitality learning centers like this?
A: This building is the first of its kind in Colorado, though there are examples of similar learning centers and teaching hotels at campuses including Cornell University, the University of Delaware – Newark, Michigan State and Houston University. There are 10 other such teaching hotels in the country that are directly tied to a college’s hospitality program.
Q : Who is on the project team?
A: The team selected to partner with MSU Denver on the HLC was:
- Sage Hospitality – hotel manager
- MA Mortenson Construction & Development Company – developer and general contractor
- RNL and JG Johnson Architects – architects
- Studio INSITE – landscape architect
- Swerdling and Associates and Kutak Rock – financing
- Robert S. Benton & Associates, Inc. – hospitality consulting and valuation
- HVS International – market consultant
- SpringHill Suites® by Marriott – hotel flag
Q: How was the project team selected?
A: MSU Denver undertook a two-phase request for proposals (RFP) process to select a project team to partner with on the HLC. The first RFP was released on Dec. 19, 2008, and the second RFP was released to a short list of four teams on June 19, 2009. The shortlisted teams were then interviewed and the HLC Task Force Selection Committee made a recommendation to the MSU Denver Board of Trustees, which approved the selected team at the board’s Sept. 2, 2009 meeting. For the hotel flag, an RFP was released in early 2010. Proposals were received from a number of hotel companies and a shortlist was created. SpringHill Suites® by Marriott was selected in summer 2010.
Q: Who was on the committee that selected the team?
A: The committee represented different constituents from the campus and the state. It included representatives from MSU Denver’s Administration Finance and Facilities Division, HTE faculty, the Auraria Higher Education Center and MSU Denver campus planners, the MSU Denver Board of Trustees, and the asset manager from Colorado’s real estate program.
Q: What brand name hotel operates at the HLC?
A: The hotel is officially called SpringHill Suites® Denver Downtown.
Q: What will happened to the tennis courts that were displaced in order to build the HLC?
A: The Auraria Executive Board voted in December 2010 to put the new tennis courts on Auraria’s new property on the south side of Colfax Avenue.
Q: Why did MSU Denver move forward with the HLC during the state and country's economic recession?
A: MSU Denver saw this as the perfect time for this exciting project because it will create tremendous learning opportunities for students wanting to enter the hospitality field and will have a significant impact on Denver’s economy.
The HLC will help implement the vision of making the campus a more vibrant neighborhood with increased connectivity to downtown Denver set forth in the Auraria Campus Ten-Year Master Plan and the Downtown Area Plan.
Q: Doesn’t Denver already have enough hotels?
A: Christine O'Donnell, president of the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association, has said, "Despite a recent downturn in the economy and lodging room rates, Denver remains an attractive and in-demand city for leisure, business and conference business. The city is expected to recover from the recession successfully, and we anticipate demand for hotel rooms to increase by 2012, the year the HLC is expected to come online."
Q: How did MSU Denver pay for this during a time of state budget cuts?
A: No taxpayer dollars were used. The HLC is a unique public/private partnership. MSU Denver is leasing the land from the Auraria Higher Education Center; bonds for the HLC’s construction costs were issued in November 2010 at a 4.34 percent interest rate; and revenue from operations, as well as private donations, will cover debt service. A nonprofit special purpose corporation, HLC @ Metro, Inc., was formed to provide for the HLC’s financing, operation and management, and the Metropolitan State University of Denver Roadrunner Recovery and Reinvestment Finance Authority was created specifically as an issuing authority for HLC bonds.
MSU Denver anticipates that private philanthropy will also cover a portion of costs associated with the learning center (academic space). To learn more contact the MSU Denver Development Office at 303-556-8424.