Dec. 19, 2007 by Darrell J. Pehr NMSU News Center
By approving a lease of 3.8 acres of university property at their meeting Friday, the New Mexico State University Board of Regents set in motion a project that will bring a $30 million hotel and an extensive opportunity for additional student learning to the Las Cruces campus.
The property, at the southeast corner of University and Union avenues, will be developed by Intercap Institutional Investors, a Delaware company. Intercap will construct and operate a full-service hotel with about 180 guest rooms, a restaurant and a conference center.
Michael Rickenbaker, NMSU’s director of facility planning and construction, told regents that the hotel will be a key part of the university master plan’s concept to create a new “face” for the university on University Avenue. As in many other cities with universities, having university buildings such as the hotel and the planned Center for the Arts facing the street, rather than away from it, would create a situation “where we have a wonderful city facing a wonderful university,” Rickenbaker said.
A separate agreement earlier this year set in motion a plan for the City of Las Cruces to construct an event center near the future hotel.
Ben Woods, NMSU senior vice president of Planning, Physical Resources and University Relations, said the hotel and conference center would create tremendous opportunities for both the university and the community, becoming a site for scholarly meetings and creating a much higher level of national recognition for the university and its programs.
Woods said construction of the hotel would take about two years.
Janet Green, academic department head for NMSU’s School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management, called the project a “$30 million laboratory in which students can learn and train.” A second agreement between the university and Intercap would ensure HRTM students are provided with internships, externships, a “senior year manager” position and general hotel employment opportunities. Intercap also will provide a summer internship for HRTM faculty and three guest lecturers per semester.
Green also anticipates having a full service hotel and conference center will raise the HRTM school’s stature nationally, although it already is ranked 21st in the country, and increase enrollment in the program by some 500-600 students.
Regent Robert Gallagher said the project will bring investment by the private sector in the tens of millions of dollars, boost the HRTM program and create an excellent facility for the entire community.
Green noted that in addition to the HRTM program, the new facility could create opportunities in a variety of other NMSU programs, from horticulture and marketing to food science, nutrition and even engineering.
NMSU Executive Vice President and Provost Waded Cruzado praised the project, saying, “This is a project that will touch the lives of every New Mexican.