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Spirited Meetings at Campus Hotels

College campuses are brimming with energy and bursting with activity, and meeting at an on-campus hotel puts attendees in the heart of the action. A campus hotel serves as a guesthouse for the university — for anyone visiting for the first time or for people who have returned many times over — and it can even serve as a living classroom for students.

Whether a hotel is 110 years old or not even 10 months old, these on-campus properties place meetings in an academic epicenter.

Texas A&M Hotel and Conference Center

College Station, Texas

The Texas A&M Hotel and Conference Center opened in late August — the day before the season’s first home football game — and A&M’s only on-campus hotel has already changed the university’s dynamic.

“We’re positioned to be the guesthouse for the university,” said Tory Enriquez, director of sales and marketing and a former student.

The hotel is 96 yards from Kyle Field, and the Memorial Student Center is across the street, “so we are in the heart of campus,” he said.

The hotel has 250 guest rooms and suites, 35,000 square feet of flexible meeting and event space, and a 1,400-car garage that connects by way of a breezeway. Inside the gleaming glass structure, the decor pays Aggie homage with little surprises like “Gig ’Em, Aggies!” engraved on shower faucets.

In addition to university conferences, galas and board meetings, the facility also serves as a gathering place for national or statewide educational and research conferences, as well as recruiting conferences.

On the first floor, the 8,300-square-foot Century Ballroom can seat up to 500 for a banquet or be divided into four smaller rooms, and the glass-walled prefunction space delivers views of Kyle Field. More meeting space on the second floor includes two 728-square-foot divisible conference rooms that connect to a patio.

The two-story Block T Bar has a terrace overlooking Kyle Field, and on the third-level pool deck, three connectable hospitality suites spill out onto a semiprivate patio.

Historic Boone Tavern Restaurant and Hotel

Berea College, Berea, Kentucky

Abolitionists founded Berea, Kentucky, in 1855, and Berea College was at the heart of their vision for an interracial community. The school, established in 1866, admitted students of all kinds, black and white, male and female, all free of charge.

The Historic Boone Tavern Restaurant and Hotel was built in 1909 to serve as a guesthouse and restaurant for the school, and it still does today as Berea College’s campus hotel.

All the bricks and mortar and building materials, as well as most of the furniture and some artwork, were made on-site by Berea students. But for its centennial celebration, the 63-guest-room hotel underwent a multimillion-dollar restoration and reopened in 2009 as the state’s first LEED Gold-certified hotel.

In 2016, the hotel opened its new Boone Tavern Event Center next to the Boone Tavern dining room on College Square. The 2,834-square-foot center seats up to 150 for banquets, and the hotel has several other function spaces, including the 48-person Skylight Room and the 80-guest Coyle Gathering Room.

Frost Café opened in the lobby about a year ago. It serves as the morning coffee shop and the evening bar for the hotel, which recently started serving alcohol and hosting live-music nights, said Patrick Huston, director of sales and marketing.

Groups can bring in local artists for demonstrations or hands-on activities in basket weaving and broom-making. Groups can also arrange for guided tours of the hotel, and the college offers a complimentary craft tour and historic tour.

Statler Hotel at Cornell University

Ithaca, New York

When the Statler Inn opened its doors in 1950 on the campus of Cornell University, it was meant to serve both university guests and students of Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration.

The Statler Inn was torn down in the 1980s, and its replacement, the Statler Hotel, opened in 1989 with more rooms and more meeting space — and the same mission as its predecessor.

“We’re still the living laboratory,” said Cynthia Wild, director of sales and marketing. “The students really are a part of who we are and what makes us unique.”

All the hotel’s 153 rooms were renovated in 2010, and some offer views of Cuyuga Lake. The property’s 16,000 square feet of meeting space includes the J. Willard Marriott Executive Education Center, which features an 87-seat tiered amphitheater and six additional breakout rooms.

The 4,140-square-foot Carrier Ballroom just reopened following a complete renovation that added windows overlooking East Avenue. The ballroom can seat up to 270 guests for meals or 500 for receptions.

The hotel connects directly to Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration, where groups can also access a 700-seat auditorium and other breakout spaces.

When hosting a meeting on campus, “there’s an energy and excitement of being in an Ivy League setting,” Wild said. Groups can tap into the school’s high- and low-ropes courses and team-building programs, access keynote speakers, bring in student a cappella groups or hire the Big Red Marching Band to lead attendees into an event.

Illini Union Hotel

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, Illinois

In 1942, first lady Eleanor Roosevelt dedicated the Illini Union Hotel, housed within the Illini Union, one of the most recognizable buildings on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s campus.

The hotel was originally on the north side of the building; then an addition was built and the hotel was moved to the south side of the building. But it’s still in the heart of the campus, and “the Main Quad is our backyard,” said Carol Bain, publicity promotions specialist for the 74-room hotel.

Because of its location in the student union, hotel guests have access to five restaurants, a convenience store, a bookstore and a new bus plaza out front. The two food courts each have a stage where students perform every day at lunch. “And not just any student; they have to audition,” Bain said. “There’s never a dull moment.”

The Illini Union has over 29,000 square feet of meeting space and over two dozens rooms. In the historic Second Floor Ballroom, arched windows nearly touch the 21-foot-high ceilings on three sides.

But the Illini Room is the largest space at 8,712 square feet, and it can be split into three smaller rooms. The Illini Room also opens up and attaches to the South Lounge, a wood-paneled room with picture windows overlooking the quad.

Hotel guests also get free access to the campus recreation center and can walk across the street to Campustown’s restaurants and shops, take in a show at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts and visit Krannert Art Museum and Spurlock Museum.

Carolina Inn

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

The University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill is the nation’s first and, therefore, oldest public university. It was chartered in 1789 and began enrolling students in 1795, which means its campus hotel, the Carolina Inn, is a fairly recent addition, even though it has been serving the university for 95 years.

John Sprunt Hill, a businessman and university trustee who graduated from UNC in 1889, built the inn in 1924. The Hill family donated the inn to the university in 1935 but required that its net profits would go to support UNC Library’s North Carolina Collection.

The grand brick inn sits on the doorstep of the campus and has 185 guest rooms and 14,000 square feet of indoor function space, including three ballrooms. The Hill Ballroom offers nearly 3,700 square feet that can be separated into three spaces. The Old Well Wing provides nearly 5,000 square feet of space that includes the 2,000-square-foot Old Well Room with black-and-white checkerboard terrazzo floors, as well as a parlor, a gallery, a clubroom and an alumni room.

The Carolina Inn also boasts over 15,000 square feet of outdoor event space; the largest event space is the Annie Watts Hill Courtyard, hugged by the inn’s brick walls on three sides.