CORVALLIS - The last major piece in Oregon State University's plan to develop a leading on-campus conference complex is finally complete with the opening today of a Hilton Garden Inn on the OSU campus, just across the street from Reser Stadium.

The four-story, 128-room Hilton is also across Western Boulevard from OSU's LaSells Stewart Center and the CH2M-HILL Alumni Center. Together those three facilities give the university one of the top 10 on-campus conference complexes in the country, according to Brian Thorsness, director of contracts for OSU.

"The Corvallis community and OSU have waited a long time for this to happen," Thorsness said. "The new Hilton will contribute greatly to the university's ability to attract major conferences, and give a boost to the area's economy."

A number of groups already have booked blocks of rooms at the Hilton, including the first major group this week - about 80 participants for a Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation conference that will be held at OSU in conjunction with the grand opening of the university's new tsunami research center.

Doug Dreher, president of The Hotel Group, an Edmonds, Wash.-based management company that operates the new Hilton, said the hotel's opening culminates years of teamwork between his company, the university, A&A Construction, and local partners in the property, Vern McDonald and Jackson Cooper.

"We are aggressively pursuing meetings business that could not have come to the city without the partnership," Dreher said. "With the assistance of the Corvallis Convention and Visitors Bureau, we have already booked some of these groups. Our continued success will come from the ongoing cooperation of all these groups, with strategies for effectively competing against other new venues."

The Hilton has 128 rooms in this first phase, including 79 rooms with two queen beds; two presidential suites; and a pair of two-room executive suites. A second phase of future construction could add another 30 or so rooms. The hotel's aptly named Stadium Grill restaurant and lounge also opened Monday. Other amenities at the Hilton Garden Inn include an indoor pool and whirlpool, a fitness room, a 24-hour business center, and a gift shop.

All of the rooms are wired for high-speed Internet access and include work space.

The Hilton has an executive boardroom that can seat 14 people, and an event room for small receptions. OSU's LaSells Stewart Center and CH2M-HILL Alumni Center offer a combined 80,000 square feet of space to complement the Hilton, with meeting rooms, lecture halls and banquet facilities.

The addition of the Hilton as a "headquarter hotel" is critical for attracting major conferences, according to John Hope-Johnstone, executive director of the Corvallis Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Corvallis has lost out on as many as three dozen major city-wide conferences in four years because it lacked such a hotel, he said.

"A headquarter hotel is one that is within hopping distance of the conference facilities," Hope-Johnstone said. "When a major conference is scheduled, the board members, VIPs, guest speakers, and especially the organizing staff need to be in constant contact with the conference facilities staff. They usually set up a 'war room' in the headquarter hotel from which they conduct business.

"Meanwhile," he added, "the regular attendees will fill up rooms around the rest of the city."

Kavinda Arthenayake, director of Conferences and Community Relations at OSU, said the university will work closely with the Hilton and the City of Corvallis to attract conferences to the community.

"Corvallis and Oregon State University have a lot to offer," he said. "We've spent several months streamlining our processes so that the three facilities can work together seamlessly. Now we need to aggressively pursue new clients." Cooper, a partner in the property, said the Corvallis community in which he lives will benefit from many ways in having the Hilton Garden Inn at OSU. "It not only helps the university and gives a shot in the arm to the business community," Cooper said, "it also gives a boost in prestige to the community. It says something to have the Hilton name in Corvallis."

More information is available on the web at Reservations may also be made online, by calling a central number 1-800-HILTONS, or by calling the hotel directly at 541-752-5000.

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Brian Thorsness, 541-737-7344