UD trustees approve plan for hotel adjacent to Clayton Hall

At its semiannual meeting May 22, the University of Delaware Board of Trustees approved the construction of an upscale 120-room hotel, to be built adjacent to the Clayton Hall Conference Center on the University’s Laird Campus by the fall of 2002.

The new facility will provide on-campus lodging for alumni, parents, guests and conference attendees as well as enhance educational experiences for students in the University’s Department of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management (HRIM).

For this project, the University and Shaner Hotel Group LP (SHG) have negotiated the formation of the Blue Hen Hotel LLC. Under this limited liability corporation agreement, the University will own 75 percent and Shaner 25 percent of the hotel.

The University will contribute the 3.5-acre land lease as its equity contribution. The cost of the project, not to exceed $11.5 million, will be fully financed through a direct loan to the LLC with a University guarantee.

The Shaner Hotel Group, with headquarters outside State College, Pa., is a $500 million operation, established in 1983. It currently operates 54 hotels with more than 8,000 rooms in 23 states, representing 11 different hotel brands, including Marriott, Holiday Inn, Hampton Inn, Hawthorn Suites, Embassy Suites and Radisson, among others.

Lance T. Shaner is chairman and chief executive officer of the Shaner Hotel Group, and Frederick J. Shaner is president and chief operating officer, responsible for all daily operations, with oversight on other divisions, including marketing, personnel, purchasing and guest services. The company's focus is on adding more upscale hotels, convention properties and larger full-service hotels. The company, the 21st largest owner/operator of hotels in the U.S., has 4,000 employees overall and a corporate staff of 90.

Currently, students in UD’s HRIM department receive much of their hands-on experience and training at Vita Nova, a student-run restaurant located in the Trabant University Center.

The new hotel will provide HRIM students with opportunities to gain hundreds of hours of practical experience in a teaching and research laboratory located in a hotel setting. Students will gain valuable experience in sales, marketing, revenue management, communication and housekeeping.

Fred DeMicco, Aramark Chair in HRIM and department chairperson, said, “UD students taking classes in the hotel and rotating through different departments, including the front office, revenue, housekeeping, sales and marketing and engineering, will be working side by side under the tutorage of the Shaner Hotel Group.

“In addition,” he said, “the facility will be invaluable to HRIM faculty conducting research for the hotel industry on technology applications, service management, finance and marketing. We are excited to have this partnership with the Shaner Hotel Group and Marriott International.”

Plato Ghinos, Shaner Hotel Group vice president of development, called the partnership “a natural extension of our business expertise that offers an exciting opportunity for us to broaden our goal of developing new and innovative business partnerships, and at the same time, share our business expertise with the next generation of hoteliers.

“The hotel’s general manager will be a member of the University faculty, and students will be able to use the facility as an active learning environment,” Ghinos said.

The hotel will provide economic benefits to the surrounding community and businesses, with visitor spending and property and occupancy tax revenues.

A public hearing will be held, and a traffic study will be conducted before any construction begins, according to Executive Vice President David Hollowell.

“The proposed construction site, on the Laird Campus near Clayton Hall, will pose minimal inconvenience to neighbors, faculty, students, staff and visitors,” Hollowell said.

“During construction, the site—off Route 896 near the Pencader Residence Hall Complex—will provide easy access for crews and equipment and, when the hotel is completed, this location will be ideal for campus guests and those attending conferences and meetings in Clayton Hall,” Hollowell said.

The hotel will complement UD’s Clayton Hall Conference Center—with its 22 meeting rooms, 7,700 square feet of exhibit space and a 500-seat auditorium—as well as the Bob Carpenter Sports/Convocation Center, designed for athletic events, large ceremonies, trade shows and conventions.

Contact: Ed Okonowicz, (302) 831-8908

May 24, 2001