Cal State Faculty Vote to Decide Hotel's Fate

Times Staff Writer

Cal State Fullerton President Jewel Plummer Cobb has decided to let a faculty vote Thursday determine the fate of a hotel-stadium complex that has been on the drawing boards since the early 1980s.

In a rare gamble for such a major project, Cobb said Monday that she will let a vote by the Academic Senate decide the fate of both the $16-million hotel and the $6.7-million stadium and sports complex, which are scheduled to be under construction by next summer.

The complex would be financed by the Marriott Corp., with the assistance of the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency.

Some faculty members have raised questions about the joint proposal.

"If the Academic Senate votes to oppose the proposal, it will be dropped," Cobb said Monday. "There is no point in getting this started on the wrong foot."

The proposed Marriott Hotel would be the first such facility at any California public college or university. Faculty opposition, however, concerns the 10,000-seat sports stadium and complex that the hotel revenue would finance, rather than the hotel itself.

In a resolution earlier this month, the 44-member Academic Senate voiced concern that the sports complex might be a financial drain on the university. Some faculty members also said they worry that building a sports complex would overemphasize athletics at the expense of academics. These opponents have specifically mentioned football as their big concern.

The proposed sports complex would give Cal State Fullerton its first on-campus stadium. Home football games now are played at Santa Ana Stadium.

"The (faculty) discussion has mainly been about the cost (of operating a sports complex), but there are some who are questioning the whole football program," said Julian Foster, a political science professor who is chairman of the Academic Senate. "Football is the most expensive sport, and there are some people who don't want it."

Suffer Academically

Foster said the Academic Senate questions whether Cal State Fullerton would suffer academically because of the costs of maintaining a stadium and sports complex on campus.

Cobb said Monday that she has told the faculty that the project would not drain money from teaching. "Our first concern is the instructional programs," she said.

Last December, the Marriott Corp. of Bethesda, Md., announced that it would build a 224-room hotel on campus, if all the governing authorities agreed to the hotel-stadium complex. So far, the hotel proposal has passed all the hurdles.

On Sept. 24, the Fullerton Planning Commission approved the hotel plans. Unlike an earlier hotel proposal, which was challenged in court in 1983 and 1984 by an environmental group, the current hotel plans have proceeded smoothly.

Financial Information

But the questions raised by some faculty members caused the Academic Senate to request financial information about the building plans.

"We are making all the financial information available," said Sal Rinella, Cal State Fullerton vice president for administration. He said the sports complex would be built with funds from both hotel revenue and the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency.

He, too, said the sports complex's operating expenses would not drain money from campus academics.

"The sports complex would provide its own revenue stream," he said, explaining that ticket sales and rentals of the stadium would cover continuing operating costs.

Cobb said Monday that she will abide by the Academic Senate's decision. "The Academic Senate is representative of the faculty, and unless the faculty supports this proposal, it should not proceed," she said.

Go Along With Proposal

When asked his opinion on the issue, Foster, the chairman of the Academic Senate, said, "I'm not a great supporter of the football program, but I think we should go along with this proposal."

Asked to predict how the Academic Senate vote would turn out, he said, "I think that in the end the vote will be in favor."

If the Academic Senate approves the project, it then will go to the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency and the Board of Trustees of theCalifornia State University system. Both have strongly indicated support for the project.

Rinella said Monday that if all goes smoothly, both the hotel and the sports complex would be under construction by next summer. He said the hotel would be opened in the fall of 1988, and the stadium and sports complex would probably be completed by the fall of 1989.

In addition to football, the outdoor stadium and complex would provide facilities for baseball, soccer, track and several other men's and women's sports, Cobb said.

The hotel would be built on land currently used for parking off of Nutwood Avenue, near the Orange Freeway. The sports complex would be built on land currently used as the football team's practice field, behind the school's gymnasium.

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