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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - The largest hotel in Tippecanoe County is set to close during, arguably, Purdue's most important year in decades. The Purdue Union Club Hotel will close this summer for a year during a multi-million dollar renovation project.
With the 150th anniversary concluding, a surging football and basketball program, the end of the Ever True Campaign and guest visits continuing to grow, the absence of the Union Club could play a major role in the Greater Lafayette hospitality business.
Beginning June 3, the 192 rooms at the Union Club Hotel will be temporarily removed from the county's 2700 room total. The lobby, the rooms, the layout and much more will get a makeover for the first time since the 1980s. A part of the Union will also be converted into a formal restaurant and bar, something it didn't have before.
The Visitor's Center and the Purdue Alumni Association's Boilermaker Station will be removed from the Union to make way for the restaurant. The spaces will be temporarily moved to the Stewart Center, however a permanent location has not been decided, according to Purdue Memorial Union Senior Director Zane Reif.
"There is a little bit of nervousness," said Reif. "You want to make sure you honor the tradition and history we have here."
"This is a very important subject, and I can't tell you we have a good solution yet," said Purdue President Mitch Daniels. "It's a very busy year. It may be our biggest homecoming ever with the culmination of our 'Giant Leaps.'"
On the community's side, it may not be as much of an issue as you think. Visit Lafayette/West Lafayette President and CEO Jo Wade isn't concerned about preparedness of Tippecanone County hotels. She said the fluctuation happens often in this town.
"I would say the biggest change will be concerned alumni that like staying in the Union," said Wade.
However, she said you could see some higher prices. For example, most hotels on the west side are already sold out for Purdue's homecoming weekend. Those not fully booked are running between $250-$390 a night according to RoomKey.com, and it was worse than that a few weekends ago during Purdue's Spring Fest and Spring Football Game.
"I had some complaints saying there was somebody charging $1,000 a night," said Wade. "Hotels or businesses throw those numbers out there and see if anybody will pay that rate. The better the team plays, the higher the rates will probably go."
"I am worried about people being inconvenienced or overcharged," Daniels echoed.
While there may not be a solution right now, organizers say once the Union Club is done, it will be worth the year of inconvenience. The staff at the Union has created accommodations for those who had pre-scheduled events at the PMU. Reif said they are working to place their staff in other various areas during the remodel.
"I think it's going to be a testament to the customer service that we have here," said Reif. "II think you'll have a lot of people saying 'yeah I want to be a part of that. I want to feel like I'm at campus.'"
A majority of the renovation is thanks to a $30 million dollar gift by former trustee Bruce White. He is the founder of White Lodging, a company that owns 170 hotels in 21 states.
Purdue University will still own the Union Club Hotel, however Reif said it will be managed by White Lodging.
The closure comes as the announcement of a new 7-story hotel in Tippecanoe County is made. A 180 room Drury Inn is planned to go up on South Street in Lafayette. Construction is expected to begin in June.
The new Staybridge Suites is also expected to open "soon" in Lafayette on Meijer Drive, according to Wade.