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UT students check into hotels until dorms rise

The demand for on-campus housing at the University of Tampa has spurred a building boom. In the meantime, students take over hotel floors.

© St. Petersburg Times
published September 27, 2002

When Ryan Barone was told he would be staying at a nearby Holiday Inn this fall instead of a dorm at the University of Tampa, he didn't mind.

He would get a bigger room, a bigger bed and maid service twice a week.

"Instead of being uptight and angry about it, I was pleasantly pleased," said the 21-year-old transfer student from Albany, N.Y.

His only regret? He's surrounded by freshmen.

Barone is among an estimated 250 first-year students who live at the hotel because of an unfulfilled demand for on-campus housing.

For the past six years, the university has transformed floors at the Holiday Inn into a residence hall, staffed with 12 resident assistants and a supervisor.

They've also occupied rooms at the Radisson Riverwalk Hotel on Ashley Drive. The students occupy over 50 percent of the Holiday Inn, residing in 174 rooms on floors three through eight. A shuttle service transports students to and from school and runs continuosly throughout the week. Students have access to a pool and Internet service provided by the hotel.

"We do our best to make it as much as a residence hall as possible," said Lisa Bardill, director of Residence Life.

However, she said, the goal is to bring the students back on campus next year. About 2,500 students currently live there.

"We're building dorms as fast as we can," said Grant Donaldson, director of public affairs. He said incoming students will reside at the hotel indefinitely, "until we can catch up and meet the demand for students on campus."

UT expects to open its newest facility, Stadium Place, by next fall. The 63,000-square-feet building costs $16-million. It will have a suite with four bedrooms, a living room, kitchen and bathroom. It will house up to 480 students. A six-story, 900 space parking garage is rising next to the dorm.

Stadium Place will join four residence halls built within the past five years. Vaughan Hall opened in 2001 with rooms for 440 students, a student center and conference facility. Brevard Hall, a nine-story facility that cost $13 million, opened in 2000 to 460 juniors and seniors.

The new dorms are part of a master plan to expand the campus and add new athletic and recreational facilities. A $700,000 stadium replaced a smaller one built in the 1920s. The stadium will seat 1,500 people and will be used as an intramural sports and soccer field. A fitness center and classrooms will also be added in the plan, which will take the next 10 to 12 years to fulfill, Donaldson said.

But for now, students are content with staying at the hotel.

"I don't mind," said 18-year-old Brooke Aiken. "I like it."

-- Janel Stephens can be reached at 226-3354.

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