|By Rachel Peterson, The Arizona Daily
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Mar. 6, 2006 - The 150-room hotel that's proposed to accompany a conference center at Northern Arizona University has fallen short of local hotelier expectations.
So short members of the Flagstaff Hospitality Association are asking the city to renege on its approval of $2 million for the project.
Mark Ross, president of the association, said Drury Southwest, the lone hotel proposal to accompany Northern Arizona University's conference center, won't be the large property originally anticipated to accompany the conference center, though it is expected to be high-end.
Instead, the combined conference center-hotel won't be much larger than what's already available in Flagstaff, creating a competitive property rather than a community-wide benefit from the overflow of large events, he said.
"It's going to be one that we still believe is going to be small enough to create competition," he said.
The proposed conference center is slated to dine 800 people in its ballroom with additional breakout space on the upper floor, which was the original proposal and the minimum required to receive city funding, said Lisa Nelson, NAU public affairs director. The project also still touts a minimum of 400 parking spaces in a parking structure, and food service available at the hotel between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. year-round that's specified in the city's $2 million agreement.
Drury Southwest also proposed their hotel will have a "manager's reception area," where cocktails will be served in the evenings, and a hot breakfast, Nelson said.
Even though the project fits the specifications, Ross said the space as he understands it won't function well with a group of 800.
"It just doesn't appear that it's large enough to accommodate an 800-person group and handle it smoothly. The reality is the numbers are going to be less than that and it still becomes a competitor for others of us in town."
In addition, the lack of a full-service restaurant and lounge will make it more difficult to attract conventions larger than what already come to Flagstaff's Little America or Radisson Woodlands Hotel, Ross said.
"Any kind of hotel with an attached conference center has to have that kind of component in order to attract the kind of events that will benefit everybody" through overflow.
Design and negotiations are ongoing, Nelson said. "The discussions up to this point so far have been mostly focused on what would be the footprint of the whole operation," and that could include an independently-owned restaurant within the hotel.
"That's still pretty much in the discussion phase," she said.
The design is expected to be completed and construction started by the end of the summer, Nelson said.
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