After three years of seeking approval to lease 25 acres of property for the construction of a hotel and conference center, MU decided not to pursue the issue with state legislators in the upcoming session, MU spokeswoman Mary Jo Banken said.
Although MU will not abandon the idea of a hotel and conference center, it will try to get state funding for a health sciences research center.
“There is still a need for a hotel and conference center,” Banken said. “However, this year our focus must be on acquiring funding for a new health sciences research center.”
The goal of MU administrators had been to lease the property on the corner of College Avenue and Stadium Boulevard to a developer, and use the money to build a $40 million to $50 million performing arts center. The money from the lease would be supplemented by private funds.
The hotel plan had been criticized in the past by some local hotel owners, who argued MU’s involvement would harm competing local businesses.
“They found a better way of funding the performing arts center than going into the hotel business,” said Ed Baker, vice president of Executive Hotel Management, which owns the Holiday Inn Select in Columbia.
Banken said MU will seek private donors to fund the performing arts center, but before it does so, it has to conduct a study to determine the needs of the center and identify the people who might contribute money. The study is in its initial stages, Banken said, and it is not yet clear when it will be completed.
Although this year’s focus will be on the health sciences research center, Banken said the performing arts center remains one of the university’s top priorities.
“The performing arts center is something that we’ve needed for years,” Banken said. “The music, arts and theater departments need more space, they need room, and the students need a bigger place to perform.”