The popular Inn at Ole Miss in Oxford, which is in the middle of an $18-million expansion, recently passed a major milestone with the topping off August 24 of an eight-story tower that will add 41 one-bedroom suites and 10 penthouses to the inn.
The Inn at Ole Miss used an innovative way to fund its expansion. Football weekends at Ole Miss are so popular that it is very difficult to find hotel rooms in town. In fact, visitors often have to stay as far away as Batesville or Tupelo. So the Inn at Ole Miss sells both rooms at the existing hotel and in the new tower to alumni to allow them guaranteed reservations.
“All the suites and penthouses are owned by alumni,” says Robert Radice, general manager, The Inn at Ole Miss. “They buy them for the right to use them whenever they like, but predominantly they are used for football weekends. When alumni use them, they have to pay the regular rate, as well. What they are buying is the opportunity to use them when they want them. The majority don’t use them except for football games.”
Approximately 60% of the rooms in the existing hotel are owned by alumni. Currently those rooms are being renovated, and additional rooms that haven’t been sold are being put on the market.
Approximately $14.1 million of the $18 million has been raised thus far, which is a testament to how popular football is at Ole Miss.
“It is hard to find hotel rooms on football weekends,” Radice says. “Even when the team is not doing well, we sell out.”
The new tower, which is a very upscale development, is set to open May 1. That will help with providing more capacity for the many people who enjoy the convenience of staying right on campus in the middle of things.
“It is going to be top quality,” Radice says. “We expect it to be very popular as there is always something happening on campus that brings people in. We are located next to the Ford Center for the Performing Arts, which is a world-class theater. It is a Broadway-quality theater that brings in additional people to see events there. And at some point our hotel will be connected to the Ford Center by way of a bridge. That is in phase two of our project.”
Currently the inn has 96 rooms. Those are sold out 40 out of the 52 weekends of the year. While popular with alumni, you don’t have to be associated with the college to stay at the inn.
“One hurdle we have to overcome is a lot of the public think we are only open to alumni,” Radice says. “That is not the case. We are open to the business traveler or transient traveler who comes in. About 99% of the owners only come for football, so I have nearly every day and many weekends the opportunity to sell those rooms to the public, primarily parents. About 40% of our business is group business like conferences.”
The new tower will have amenities that will make the inn an even more attractive spot to hold meetings and conventions. There will be a 6,000-square-foot ballroom that will seat 500 at a banquet, and a 900-square-foot board room.
“What that means to us is we can now host much larger groups,” Radice says.
“It is a wonderful mix of students and meetings. We are pretty self contained here on campus. It is a nice experience because you can stay with us, walk anywhere on campus, and walk to downtown Oxford for fine dining and excellent shopping. It is a pretty cozy place and people like it. You’re on campus and it is very safe here so you don’t have to worry about crime. Right now, 56 attorney generals are here for a meeting. We also have chief of police and judge training.”
A new amenity that started up recently is a shuttle from the inn to Oxford Square. Radice says many of the inn’s guests arrive by shuttle buses or taxis, and so don’t have a car. The shuttle that will run daily will be convenient for visitors who want to go downtown to eat or shop.
For more information, see the Web site http://www.theinnatolemiss.com or call 1-888-486.7666.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at email@example.com.