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Published: Thursday, 10/9/2008

Ohio College's hotel to be only one in Ada

BLADE STAFF
The lobby of Ohio Northern University's The Inn is ready to greet customers. The hotel officially opens tomorrow with a 1 p.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony. The lobby of Ohio Northern University's The Inn is ready to greet customers. The hotel officially opens tomorrow with a 1 p.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony.
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ADA, Ohio - Ohio Northern University President Kendall Baker was one of the first guests at the college's new hotel.

"It was really a spectacular experience," he said.

"This room we stayed in Friday night was larger than the apartment I lived in when I was in graduate school."

While he and his wife, Toby, got to check out the 850-square-foot two-bedroom suite, others have been testing out some of the other 75 guest rooms during the past week to give their thoughts on The Inn at Ohio Northern University before it officially opens tomorrow.

A worker puts the finishing touches on the sign for the college's new 75-room hotel. A worker puts the finishing touches on the sign for the college's new 75-room hotel.
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A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be at 1 p.m. at the newly constructed hotel next to the Freed Center for the Performing Arts on ONU's campus.

Officials will be on hand from the university, village of Ada, and the construction and architectural firms, Charles Construction Services Inc. of Findlay and Miller Lecky Architect Inc. of Columbus, respectively.

Construction started on the two-story hotel in February and the finishing touches were being completed this week, Mr. Baker said.

While he declined to say how much the private university paid for the new hotel, he did say it's been a business venture from the beginning with the goal of paying off the loans with hotel revenue.

ONU hired management staff with hospitality experience to run the day-to-day operations.

"We're a university and we educate students, we don't run hotels," Mr. Baker said. "So we went and got some people who know how to do this."

For the remainder of the year, the standard rooms will rent for $100.37 a night, to commemorate the 137 years of the university. Rates will vary for the suites and specialty rooms.

The hotel is the only one in Ada.

"We recruit students from all over the country, and one of the problems is there has been no place for somebody, say from Oregon, to come stay while visiting," he said.

The university's commencement, for example, usually draws some 5,000 people to the area, Mr. Baker said. Many stay in surrounding areas, such as Lima, Findlay, Bluffton, and Kenton, which they still will, but there are now 75 rooms on campus available.

Dave Retterer, mayor of the village of about 2,750 permanent residents, said a hotel was a real need because the small motel Ada had with its fewer than 10 rooms closed about 10 years ago.

"The ability to stay in town is just really key," said Mr. Retterer, who also is an associate professor of math and computer science at ONU.

"Now they can stay in Ada instead of somewhere else," he said. "We're real nice people here. We'd love to have them."

He said the village and the university have a "tremendous relationship" and that everyone is excited about this new hotel.

The university, with an enrollment of 3,700 students, is the principal employer in Hardin County.

The university is wasting no time putting its inn to use, with a banquet planned for tomorrow night and the Board of Trustees meeting there on Saturday.

ONU doesn't have a hospitality business program, so it's not an educational place for students to get experience, but there are about 10 to 15 students who work at the hotel part time, Mr. Baker said.

The hotel has been in discussion for the 10 years Mr. Baker has been at ONU, and the finished product is something to be proud of, he said.

In addition to the 75 rooms, some of which have fireplaces and cathedral ceilings, there is 3,000 feet of meeting space for special events.

It also has a 14-seat boardroom, fitness center, restaurant, and pub.

"This is a beautiful inn," Mr. Baker said. "Take an hour, drive down, and take a look. I know you will be impressed."

- Meghan Gilbert



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