Steven James // Staff Writer
Construction has yet to start on the hotel and convention center projects that the Denton City Council and UNT Board of Regents unanimously approved back in December.
The point of the project is to attract more businesses and organizations to Denton and UNT, and is predicted to positively impact the city economy.
The project was approved at the city council meeting on Dec. 10. More than 13 acres of land were set aside for the 100,000 sq-ft convention center and m300-room hotel, both of which will be built next to Apogee Stadium.
The estimated costs are $25 million for the convention center and $60 million for the hotel. The project is being funded by the city of Denton and O’Reilly Hospitality Management, a private investor based in Springfield, Miss.
O’Reilly will help manage the convention center but the center will be built and owned by the city.
Denton Convention and Visitors Bureau Vice President Kim Phillips said the project is currently in the design phase. Each partner must sign off on all the plans, and, if any of the partners are not satisfied with certain aspects of the plans, they will have opportunities to make changes and suggestions.
She is hoping construction will begin later this year or early 2015, so that the convention center will open in early 2017.
“The No. 1 goal is to attract meeting planners to use the center,” Phillips said.
She expects Denton restaurants and other retail stores to be positively impacted by the influx of people at the two projects.
“It could help keep businesses in Denton instead of them moving,” she said. “When businesses leave, that hurts the economy.”
Assistant City Manager Jon Fortune said the decision to make a convention center and a hotel came after some market analysis research.
“There’s been a long-term interest in building a facility like this,” Fortune said. “We hope that people not from Denton, visiting, see Denton has a lot to offer.”
He said he would like the project to be complete as soon as possible so there will be more room for businesses conventions in Denton.
“We’re trying to accommodate the demand for travelers who use convention centers,” Fortune said. “We’re not just looking for meeting space, but convention needs as well.”
Hospitality and tourism management professor Young Hoon Kim said the hotel will also be used for hospitality and tourism management classes, giving students hands-on experience without having to travel to Dallas or Fort Worth for their internships. Currently, there is no contract or agreement in letting the Hospitality and Tourism Management Department use the convention center to teach classes.
“This would give our students more time to learn and focus on the experience,” Kim said.
He also said that Denton, being a college town with less than 200,000 residents, does not have a top tier hospitality industry. He thinks that could change, though, after construction on the convention center and hotel are both complete.
“People come here for their conventions and then they stay in whatever hotel they do that is not close to campus,” Kim said. “Putting the hotel right next to the convention center will save people time and money. More people will come, and it will generate more money.”