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Construction on Campus

From hosting crowds at rowdy sporting events to meetings between respected researchers, higher education institutions tend to encourage gatherings of all kinds.

For many organizations, spacious and tech-savvy university campuses provide the perfect environment for a conference, convention or other event. And with meetings being booked further and further out, the time to take note of up-and-coming campus venues is now.

From brand new conference center hotels to large-scale event venues, here are several new developments in the meetings and events sphere on college campuses.

Limelight Boulder

Boulder, Colorado

Enjoying a backdrop of breathtaking mountain views, Boulder, Colorado, is set to become even more welcoming to meetings and events. That’s thanks to the addition of a new conference hotel on the University of Colorado Boulder’s campus: the Limelight Boulder, an Aspen One property. Construction on the hotel is expected to be completed in fall of 2025. The design will utilize elements of nature to create the feel of a boutique hotel. The all-electric facility will also be built with sustainability in mind.

“The versatility of the meeting spaces, the aesthetic charm of the surrounding mountains and the amenities of Boulder combine to create the ideal venue for gatherings of all kinds,” said Alinio Azevedo, CEO of Aspen Hospitality.

Limelight Boulder is expected to have 30,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting and event space. That includes a 15,000-square-foot ballroom and a terrace. The hotel’s conference facilities are expected to have a capacity of up to 1,000 attendees and to offer a range of audiovisual and planning services to make meetings and events run smoothly.

The hotel will have over 250 guest rooms and will feature a standalone restaurant and a lounge to give guests all-day dining options. It will also feature amenities such as a pool, outdoor firepits and a coworking space.

Virginia Guesthouse at the University of Virginia

Charlottesville, Virginia

Blending the classic red brick of historic Charlottesville, Virginia, with contemporary glass and wood tones, the city’s newest hotel and conference center, the Virginia Guesthouse, is slated for completion in the fall of 2025. It’s currently under construction on the University of Virginia’s campus in downtown Charlottesville, a city known for combining the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains with a rich history and a burgeoning wine region.

“It’s going to be something that brings demand to our market in a different way than we’ve been able to do,” said Russ Cronberg, director of hospitality at the University of Virginia Foundation. “It’s going to elevate Charlottesville as a destination.”

The hotel and conference center will have an impressive array of features, including a 10,000-square-foot ballroom, almost double the current largest event space in city limits. In total, it will offer 25,000 square feet of meeting and event space, including breakout spaces and additional meeting rooms. The hotel will have 214 guest rooms. In addition to the ballroom, the conference center will be very tech-forward and capable of seamlessly hosting hybrid events.

“These spaces are being designed and thoughtfully put together in a way that will lead to flexibility in how groups will use the spaces,” Cronberg said.

Cronberg expects this conference hotel to host a variety of meetings, from association business to campus events. He also expects the conference center’s audiovisual-centric meeting spaces to attract medical or continuing-education meetings.

New and Improved Event Venues at Sacramento State

Sacramento, California

With a vibrant downtown, beautiful water features and abundant nature, California’s capital city, Sacramento, is a fast-growing hub of outdoor adventure and urban amenities. California State University Sacramento, otherwise known as Sacramento State, is known for its tree-filled 300-acre campus and for its connections to the Sacramento community. This sprawling, active campus is an excellent place for events.

In late 2023, it was announced that Sacramento State’s health and wellness facility, the WELL, had received funding for a new event center. With the addition of seating, scoreboards and new lighting, it will be able to host sporting competitions, guest speakers and arts and entertainment events while maintaining its current function. The university said the event center will be ready to host events this fall. That’s in addition to the facility’s multiple conference rooms available for rent.

This development comes on the heels of additional outdoor event spaces that were added or renovated for small-scale campus events. This included a renovation of the Serna Plaza near the campus bookstore, which hosts guest speakers, concerts and other events. Tiered seating and a beam for shade were added to the grassy spectator area, while a ramp, railings and lighting were added to the stage. Other gathering spaces on campus had pergolas or other shade-giving structures added.

Tarleton State University Event Center

Stephenville, Texas

Known as the Cowboy Capital of the World, Stephenville, Texas, is a town of 21,000, about an hour southwest from Fort Worth. Its university, Tarleton State University, is a member of the Texas A&M University system and a public research university known for its business, agriculture and health sciences colleges, among others.

In August 2023, the university broke ground on construction of a new event center on the Stephenville campus. The multipurpose arena will have two stories and seat up to 10,000 for concerts or 8,000 for sporting events. The arena will feature NCAA Division I basketball facilities and include a sports medicine suite and nutrition center in addition to custom locker rooms.

The $110 million facility will be 148,000 square feet and is expected to be mostly completed and functional in 2025. The facility will also feature event space for conferences, trade shows or conventions. It is expected to attract regional events, concerts and campus-wide events such as basketball games.

The Gateway District at University of Kansas

Lawrence, Kansas

Lawrence, Kansas, is a lively college town with plenty of history for visitors to explore. It’s home to the Jayhawks of the University of Kansas. The university is set to get some major upgrades with a recently debuted project known as the Gateway District. This project will include multiple phases and improvements to existing campus buildings, such as the David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.

According to the university’s project website, the first phase of construction will include a new build of the west and north sides of the football stadium, a new weight room and locker room renovations. Phase one will also include the building of the conference center on the stadium’s north end. This conference center is expected to total 55,000 square feet and draw meetings and events in different sectors of academia the school is known for, such as engineering and cybersecurity. It will be available year-round for nonsporting events, and during gamedays it will host fans.

The second phase will include the addition of dining, retail and additional arts and entertainment spaces, as well as lodging and office space. A live webcam allows students and the public to keep up with the construction’s progress.

The Gateway District is expected to bring significant economic impact to Lawrence thanks to its emphasis on multi-use facilities and year-round potential for events.