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Hotel Deal Will Boost NMSU Hospitality Programs

By Kevin Robinson-Avila / Albuquerque Journal Staff Writer, Friday, May 6th, 2016 at 3:49am.

LAS CRUCES — New Mexico State University and its School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management will benefit from a new deal with private developers to build and operate a hotel on the west side of campus.

The developers — Total Management Systems and Allen Sigmon Real Estate Group of Albuquerque — signed an agreement in April with Aggie Development Inc. to build and run a four-story, 122-room hotel on 2.7 acres of university land next to the Las Cruces Convention Center. Aggie Development is a nonprofit created in 2014 by the NMSU Board of Regents to manage and develop the university’s land, property and water assets.

Total management and Allen Sigmon will pay either a minimal annual fee or a percent of profits to NMSU for leasing the land, depending on which is higher. In addition, the hotel operators will partner with the hospitality school to provide learning and employment opportunities to students, offering internships, guest lectures and possibly jobs after graduation.

“The success of the hotel will translate into dollars for the university, and students will gain real-world experience,” said Real Estate Group partner Lance Sigmon. “We’ll have a close relationship with the HRTM program.”

NMSU won’t pay a dime for the hotel, estimated to cost between $13 million and $16 million. The developers will fully finance, build and operate it.

“It provides a new revenue stream for NMSU, without the university expending any of its own money,” said HRTM Director Jean Hertzman.

That’s a major plus given tighter higher-education budgets and declining student enrollment. But the benefit to students is also critical.

“It’s an opportunity for them to learn first-hand about multiple aspects of facility infrastructure and operations,” said NMSU assistant professor Daren Bloomquist. “It could open more doors for students.”

NMSU is the only state school to offer bachelor’s degrees for careers in the hospitality and culinary industries. About 200 students are currently enrolled. They take courses in economics, accounting, marketing, management, statistics and finance, in addition to core departmental requirements in things such as hospitality operations and food production.

Experiential learning through work and internships is a major part of it, making the hotel partnership particularly advantageous. Total Management Systems operates eight other hotels around the state, which could offer more opportunities for students.

The hotel, planned as a Courtyard by Marriott, will employ about 50 people. It will primarily serve the Las Cruces Convention Center, located one block west of NMSU’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, where the hospitality school is located.

“We’ll work with the convention center to bring more conventions to town,” Sigmon said. “It will be a level above other hotels in the area in terms of services, amenities and quality to provide more draw for the convention center.”

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