I announced yesterday that the Mason Inn Conference Center and Hotel on our Fairfax Campus will be converted into a residential, dining and instructional facility next summer. This is why.
The Mason Inn opened its doors in 2010 providing first-class lodging, dining and conference services for the university and our broader community. Unfortunately, despite the excellent quality of the facility and services provided and our best efforts to maximize its utilization, the current and projected levels of activity are insufficient to support operating expenses plus debt service. The result of the operation is an annual financial loss of more than $2 million. By the end of the current academic year we will have accumulated losses of over $11 million (see the university’s budget executive summary, page 49).
Meanwhile, demand for on-campus residences and dining, classroom, meeting, and office spaces at the Fairfax Campus greatly exceeds our current capacity. Mason’s residential population has doubled in the last 12 years, growing from about 3,000 to more than 6,000 students. This fall we welcomed the university’s largest freshman class ever, which forced us to create triple rooms in residences originally designed as doubles.
A task force including members of the administration, faculty, and Board of Visitors recently concluded that the current use of the facility was not financially sustainable (we would need 6 to 10 years to break even). After carefully considering their analysis, as well as listening to the opinions of industry experts, I decided to accept the recommendation of the task force to convert the Mason Inn into a residential, dining and instructional facility.
I am grateful to the many business and conference clients, travelers, partners, faculty, staff and students who made the Mason Inn become—in a short time—a special meeting place in Fairfax. I am particularly appreciative of the professional attention to detail that our partner, Crestline Hotels and Resorts, has provided. Their hard work and dedication over the last two years have been exemplary and their dedication and professionalism will continue to be critical during the transition process. Together we will strive to serve users with the same high level of service and dining experiences that they have come to expect at this beautiful facility.
From now until the Mason Inn closes for renovations in June, it will continue to operate as a full-service hotel and conference center available for both public and internal use. Staff will accommodate all overnight and conference activities and continue to provide dining options for the community, faculty and staff.
As one of its most loyal patrons, I will miss the amenities of a first-rate hotel on campus. Yet, I am excited that this conversion will allow us to add a terrific new facility to our stock of student residences, dining facilities and classrooms, which will be crucial in serving our students and supporting our growth trajectory.
As we plan the future of our campus, we will explore possible spaces to accommodate visitors, conferences and executive programs that support our mission without taxing our finances.
When we wrote our values last year, we committed to be careful stewards, that is, to manage the economic resources entrusted to us efficiently and sustainably. Doing do won’t always be easy. But it is the right thing to do. Thank you for understanding.