Best Western University Inn: Now vacant but always a community

The+former+Best+Western+Inn+sign+on+south+College+Ave+Nov.+11

Collegian | Andrew Trevino

The former Best Western University Inn sign on South College Avenue Nov. 11. The building’s resident assistant allowed students to express themselves by painting a custom sign with unique additions to the Colorado State University acronym, including a dolphin, SpongeBob SquarePants and a bumblebee.

DJ Vicente, Staff Reporter

With the beginning of the spring 2023 semester at Colorado State University, the vacated Best Western University Inn leaves experiences of students now long gone.

“It really was a situation where we all had to grow up pretty fast,” first-year student Bailey Tracer said.

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Tracer recalled her experience throughout the first semester dealing with the unexpected circumstance of living in temporary housing at the hotel.

“My first two weeks were my hardest point,” Tracer said. “I had that realization that I was missing out on a lot of things. I’m missing out on the actual moving process. I just missed out on the college life.”

Struggles like Tracer’s showed the stark difference in the lives of those living in temporary housing and how those new surroundings are able to cultivate unique first impressions in college life.

One of Tracer’s biggest struggles with living at the Best Western was the distance between the hotel and main campus buildings such as dining halls and classrooms.

“I (didn’t) use all my meal swipes, and that’s a common thing that (happened) with a lot of the students at the Best Western,” Tracer said. “It’s (was) really hard to go over there and get them used, so I (felt) like a lot of those (were) going to waste.”

CSU Housing & Dining Services also took the commute and meal plan issues into account based on feedback received from student residents.

Nick Sweeton, associate executive director for Housing & Dining Services, noted the low usage of student meal plans throughout the first month of the semester and presented solutions in order to address the issue.

“They were using Ram Cash at much greater rates, and so based on that pattern, we offered to the community, ‘If you’d like to convert some of your meal plan over to Ram Cash, we would, of course, accommodate that,’ … and over half of the community took us up on that offer,” Sweeton said.

Sweeton and the other staff at HDS served as contacts for residents at the Best Western, helping students stay connected to campus despite the distance.

Despite these struggles, HDS and residents at the Best Western were able to find successes, such as the camaraderie among peers in the hotel.

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“I feel like the fear of missing out was really scary in the first two weeks, but our community at the Best Western has changed so much, and I think it’s probably one of the best living communities on campus,” Tracer said.

Anecdotes from Tracer’s experience include student-led Spikeball tournaments in the parking lot at midnights, study groups with friends gained at the hotel and the rise of a “culture and familiarity” that has come through these activities.

Housing & Dining Services also brought student-focused programming to the Best Western. Melissa Carlson, coordinator of residential success at Housing & Dining Services, touched on different activities created by staff members, along with CSU Student Leadership, Involvement and Community Engagement.

“We’ve put on a ‘Taco Bell Tuesday Night.’ … We did pumpkin painting. … I have to give a shoutout to Associated Students of Colorado State University they helped to fund a pizza party and karaoke night,” Carlson said. “For each of these programs, we’re averaging 30 or more students, which is really excellent.”

One of the biggest successes for Housing & Dining Services was the ability to accommodate living space in the hotel for students for the entire semester. Sweeton mentioned student desire for stability and a solid living plan for the first semester.

“We held a community meeting in late October and asked the residents who attended, ‘How many of you, if you had the option to stay here the rest of the semester, would choose to?’” Sweeton said. “About three quarters of the people who attended raised their hands.”

The result of this vote aligned with the observations HDS had made earlier on, mentioning a rise of community desire to stay at the hotel. It also allowed the staff to prioritize students who wanted to move out of the hotel.

Carlson and Sweeton mentioned Housing & Dining Services’ desire to give students as much of the same community experience as possible compared to students living on campus.

“We really tried to envelop them in as much of our Ram pride as possible,” Carlson said.

Housing & Dining Services does not foresee utilizing the Best Western to house students in the near future.

Reach DJ Vicente at life@collegian.com or on Twitter @DeejMako.