The lot just west of UNLV’s Beam Hall will soon be the bustling centerpiece of campus when Hospitality Hall, a $60 million modern academic facility, is raised from the turf.
With groundbreaking scheduled to begin in March 2016, excitement is starting to build, especially for soon-to-be Hospitality Hall residents — UNLV’s Harrah Hotel College.
"The academic building represents a true coming together of hospitality and education," said Harrah Hotel College Dean, Stowe Shoemaker. "It’s about learning together in an open, welcoming environment that encourages collaboration among students, educators and industry professionals."
The four-story Hospitality Hall will unfold like a resort with sweeping views of the Las Vegas Strip, a café, outdoor patios and more than 93,000 square feet of classroom, laboratory, and meeting space.
The facility's resort feel exists for good reason. Its "Founders" represent some of the biggest names in hospitality and gaming. Caesars Foundation, Konami Gaming, Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts International, Boyd Gaming, Station Casinos and the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation have all signed on to support construction of the building—each with Founder-level gifts of $2.5 million. Founder names will be showcased at the entrance of the facility and in designated areas throughout the building.
"This is a building for the hospitality industry, and built by the industry," said former Harrah College Dean and Hospitality Hall Campaign Chair, Don Snyder. Our industry supporters are coming together for the collective good of the hospitality industry, but more specifically for the students who are shaping the future of the industry."
With industry gifts, and additional donations from Snyder, UNLV and Harrah College Career Services namesake, Bob Boughner, the university has raised $18.3 million at the time of this publication, but plans to raise another $12 million.
The State of Nevada is funding 50% of the project. In June of 2015, Governor Brian Sandoval signed an appropriations bill pledging $24.4 million for Hospitality Hall (in addition to $6 million that was previously given). In his 2015 State of the State address, Sandoval emphasized the importance of investing in the academic building, stating: "There is absolutely no reason why the best hotel school in the nation should be anywhere but Las Vegas."
News of state funding was a welcome relief considering the many years the project spent on hold awaiting the State’s economic recovery. Initial planning for the academic building began back in the 2004-2005 timeframe.
But patience, according to UNLV President Len Jessup, has paid off.
"There’s a great momentum at UNLV right now fueled by the community and those in the industry who are supporting the university’s growth. With Hospitality Hall, we’re setting a new standard for hospitality education across the globe. People want to be a part of that."
Consistently ranked as one of the top hospitality programs in the world, the Harrah Hotel College has grown over the years, burdening its current home of Beam Hall which it shares with the Lee School of Business. The college’s new digs will feature: convertible classrooms; administrative offices, to include the PGA Management Program; auditoriums; classroom laboratories, such as a learning kitchen with state-of-the-art technology; and numerous collaborative spaces for students and educators.
"The academic building is going to reflect what modern education looks like," explained Shoemaker. "Our approach will be more interactive and technology-driven. But our goal," he continued, "is not merely to create a great space; we are committed to preparing students to succeed in the highly competitive hospitality field."
Discussions are underway for Hospitality 2025 — a plan that explores hospitality education over the next decade and aligns the curriculum with the needs of the hospitality labor market, which Harrah College students consistently feed in large numbers.
"If we want to serve our students," added Shoemaker, "we must continue listening and responding to the demands of this quickly evolving industry."
Construction on the building should be completed in late 2017. Meanwhile, fundraising efforts for remaining costs continue.