April 1, 2011
Metropolitan State University of Denver
HLC groundbreaking continues new era for Metro State
On March 31, Metro State President Stephen Jordan addressed a crowd at the groundbreaking ceremony for the College’s Hotel and Hospitality Learning Center, scheduled to be completed fall 2012.
Singer-songwriter Bob Dylan’s 1964 song “The Times They Are A-Changing” could serve as the current anthem for Metropolitan State College of Denver as it is celebrating a historic wave of changes including a groundbreaking on March 31 for its new Hotel and Hospitality Learning Center (HLC).
More than 250 faculty, staff, students, elected officials, community and business leaders attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the estimated $45 million project that will be the second building in the Metro State neighborhood. The groundbreaking for the Student Success Building took place in December 2010. These two projects bring a total of $110 million in construction projects without using any taxpayer dollars.
“I am proud beyond words to see the College taking this momentous step,” said Board of Trustee member and ceremony emcee Dawn Bookhardt, who also chaired the public-private partnership committee that facilitated the development of the HLC.
The hotel, a SpringHill Suites ® by Marriott, will be managed by Denver-based Sage Hospitality, and include 150 hotel rooms and conference facilities. It will also provide hands-on training opportunities for students in the College’s Department of Hospitality, Tourism and Events (HTE). As of 2010 fall semester, the student headcount of nearly 600 declared HTE majors represents a near doubling of enrollment over the last five years.
This continuing growth assures a large training and hiring pool of management-level professionals for the region’s important hospitality industry, according to President Stephen Jordan.
The adjacent Hospitality Learning Center will boast more than 28,000 square feet of academic space, including classrooms, specialty learning labs and faculty offices.
This experiential learning component is paramount for Sage Hospitality CEO Walter Isenberg. “I’m excited about integrating the curriculum into this for-profit hotel with 100 percent of the profits of the hotel going back to the Metro State Foundation to provide scholarships for students,” said Isenberg, who chairs the HLC campaign committee and made an initial pledge of $250,000 during the ceremony on behalf of Sage Hospitality towards the campaign’s $12 million goal.
“I’d like to extend a special thanks to Isenberg and Sage Hospitality for their most generous and meaningful initial charitable pledge to the project,” said Metro State Vice President for Institutional Advancement Carrie Besnette Hauser.
More than 250 people attended the March 31 groundbreaking ceremony for the College’s Hotel and Hospitality Learning Center.
"Relationships are key to success in any endeavor, but to see all of the pieces come together at this ceremony shows true long-term commitment from all parties involved,” says Besnette Hauser, who also serves as Metro State Foundation executive director. “This has been a true team effort, and a win-win for all involved."
Isenberg added, “The HLC will offer the Denver community two assets: a fully functioning flagged hotel—SpringHill Suites® by Marriott—and a learning laboratory for our growing cadre of hospitality students.”
From a city leadership standpoint, Denver Mayor Guillermo “Bill” Vidal said, “It’s always great to see people’s vision come about. You’ve put a lot of work into your 10-year plan. It fits what we are trying to do downtown.” Vidal also mentioned that his son is a current Metro State student.
Jordan echoed Vidal’s emphasis of the importance of the HLC in downtown Denver. “When completed in 2012, this state-of-the-art teaching and learning facility will be the only such facility in Colorado and one of only 10 teaching hotels located on a college campus in the United States. It will directly impact Colorado’s economy, of which the hospitality industry is a vital component.”
Director of the Colorado Tourism Office Al White said the hospitality industry is one of the pillars of Colorado’s economy, bringing $13.9 billion to the state in 2009.
“Without an efficient and well-run hospitality industry, it could not thrive,” said White, commending the College for its private-public partnership approach for funding this project. “This is a great example of how higher education institutions can partner with their communities to make a direct impact on the economy – especially during these economic times when significant cuts are being made to higher education.”
Metro State 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 number of College board members and individuals who had pivotal roles in the project were present, including Sandra Haynes, dean of the School of Professional Studies that houses the HTE program, along with the program’s chair, John Dienhart and associate chair Chad Gruhl. Also in attendance was Foundation board member Navin Dimond, who was part of the original inspiration behind the project.
Acknowledging their role in turning the idea into a reality, Jordan said, “You will leave a lasting legacy here at Metro State.”
For the most up-to-date information about the Student Success Building and the Hotel and Hospitality Learning Center, visit Metro State is Rising.