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Kent State Hotel Rooms, Banquet Center in Demand

Calls coming in for overnight stays, conference center use at new hotel under construction downtown

It has no doors or windows yet, but already the Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center is generating interest in its 94 rooms and multiple conference areas.

The new hotel is under construction in downtown Kent and isn't set to open until some time in June.

But that's not stopping local business people and Kent State alumni from booking early to be among the first to patronize the new hotel.

Kent State President Lester Lefton said the university hired a coordinator just to handle the initial bookings for the new hotel.

"We have had interest from people and groups from all over the region who want to be some of the first to stay in the new hotel," Lefton said. "It’s becoming a hot commodity."

A full-service kitchen will provide meals for the 300-seat banquet center, which will include dividing walls so the room can be split for smaller weddings or parties.

A terrace at the corner of South DePeyster Street and Haymaker Parkway, with a capacity of 50 and a partial roof, will be available when guests book the board room on the second floor.

The Riley Hotel Group, based in Medina, OH, will operate the hotel and runs several in Northeast Ohio. For now, the firm is managing bookings for the Kent State hotel, which will include a 50-seat restaurant and 20 seat full bar on the first floor.

Michael Riccio, of the Riley Hotel Group, said calls started coming in last September from people who wanted to schedule their stay in the new hotel.

"We have had a little over 20 inquiries for sleeping rooms combined with meeting space to date," Riccio said. "We feel this is very positive this far out."

Riccio said requests to book the conference center have generally been for business meetings.

"We have also received requests for another five potential weddings, all of whom are Kent State alumni," he said. "I am sure this will be a great market as we move forward, as the emotional tie for couples who have met at the university is strong."

But it's not just Kent State students and parents looking to use the hotel.

Kent Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lori Wemhoff said several Kent businesses with international dealings are excited to see the new hotel open.

"I think when the influx of visitors come for the Kent Heritage Festival on July 6, there will be a number of curious people who will venture up to sneak a peek and check it out," she said. "Who knows what kind of business that could generate for people seeing it for the first time and realizing how convenient it is for both businesses and our out-of-town guests."

The Riley Group expects to finish the hotel's website this month, and it will include final rates on rooms, catering menus and restaurant offerings. Riccio expects publishing the final prices will lead to an increase in bookings and interest.

To maintain occupancy once open, Riccio said they plan to engage university parents to encourage them to use the hotel. And management at the Kent State hotel will work closely with the university's School of Hospitality.

"It is clear that the location and tie to the university has positioned the property for tremendous success, and we are very excited to have the property open and running," he said.

To make a reservation, call 330-346-0100.

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