KSU to follow other Ohio universities by not branding hotel

Lydia Coutré

Gene Finn, Kent State’s vice president for institutional advancement, said the University Foundation came up with no downsides to keeping the upcoming hotel and conference center in downtown Kent independent of a national chain.

“As far as we’re concerned, there’s zero disadvantages to going independent,” Finn said.

He said the decision of whether or not to partner with a franchise has been an underlying topic of the foundation’s negotiations for about a year. It came down to three main factors: the cost, freedom from contracts and the ability to keep Kent State on the name.

Finn said to join with a franchise would cost about $250,000 a year and would most likely mean being “locked into” that price for 10 years.

Other Ohio universities have had their own hotels for several years.

“I think we’re actually probably behind the curve on that,” Finn said. “I think a lot of schools already have them.”

Miami University built their Marcum Conference Center and Miami Inn in 1981, said Paula Green, Marcum’s associate director. She said staying independent keeps the hotel unique.

“It’s a property (where) we control our programming and our hotel rates, the style we run our business with (and) the menus we create,” Green said. “We’re at our own discretion. We don’t have a national corporation guiding our business.”

Ralph Mordocco, general manager at the Ohio University Inn and Conference Center, also said this is an advantage of not being affiliated with a brand.

“We have our own standards that we have here at the property, but we’re not really tied down to specific criteria (from a chain),” Mordocco said.

“We kind of do our own thing from a renovation standpoint (and) from a product quality standpoint.”

Finn said freedom in management is a side benefit, but wasn’t a driving force behind Kent State’s decision.

Green said a franchise can give hotels broader name recognition.

“A larger loyalty base might be present if you were a national chain,” Green said. “But where those can be advantages, they, I’m sure, have their disadvantages too … Being associated with the university, being connected certainly does create a loyalty base.”

Green said she doesn’t notice a huge difference in occupancy rates between Marcum and its competitors.

Mordocco said the two main downsides to staying independent are not having a national reservation system and not being able to offer reward points.

Finn said these aren’t concerns for Kent State’s hotel because it will have a national reservation system. He said he doesn’t see competition being a problem.

“When you think about it, it’s the only hotel in Kent. It’s going to be a block from campus,” Finn said. “The closest ones we have are the ones probably out by 76 … the proximity to campus is going to be critical.”

Finn said the approximately 95-room, boutique-style hotel will be a full-service hotel for the city.

He said having the university’s name attached to the hotel is an important component.

“Quite frankly, this wouldn’t be happening if it wasn’t for the university,” Finn said.

Partnering with a franchise is always a possibility down the road.

“The door’s never closed on that,” Finn said. “But the foundation board really at this point doesn’t — they certainly don’t — anticipate that, and they don’t see any reason why we would.”

Contact Lydia Coutré at [email protected].