A Columbia organization of business and community leaders will announce this morning that it supports MU’s plan to lease property for construction of a hotel and convention center at College Avenue and Stadium Boulevard, says one of the organization’s leaders.
Supporting the lease is a new group called Community Leaders Supporting Economic and Cultural Growth, which will meet at 10 a.m. in the backstage area of MU’s Jesse Auditorium. Legislators, university officials and community leaders are expected to attend.
MU has tried for three years to obtain legislative approval to lease the 25 acres. The campus wants to lease to a developer who would build a hotel and convention center, then MU would use the lease money to start building a performing arts center. Money from the 50-year lease would need to be supplemented by private funds.
Timing and pressure from local hotel owners has delayed the approval of the lease, university officials and legislators have said.
Bob Pugh, co-chairman of the support organization, said the development and performing arts center would benefit the community, not just the university. The sole purpose of the organization is to show support for the lease, he added.
“It’s not a financial issue this time, it’s just a political thing,” Pugh said. “We want to make sure that the legislators understand the people of Columbia are behind this.”
Pugh, chief executive officer of textbook seller MBS and a former city mayor, said he is aware that some hotel owners think the development would create unfair competition.
Pugh, and university leaders in the past, have said that MU does not plan to get involved in managing the hotel. He said four major hotel operators have expressed interest.
Community Leaders Supporting Economic and Cultural Growth is not an active organization. “There’s no dues, no membership fees,” Pugh said. “We’re just asking people to join us.”
Pugh added that he hopes to see about 50 people attend the morning announcement.