No unrealistic dreams: High Point University opens new arena, conference center, hotel

Newsmakers

HIGH POINT, N.C. (WGHP) — Don’t call it a basketball arena.

“This is not a basketball arena,” High Point University President Dr. Nido Qubein told me recently while describing the brand new $170 million campus complex major portions of which carry his last name.

“This is a place where you can learn and grow, nourish your mind, nurture your soul and yes, believe in the art of the possible that I can do all things if we’re willing to work hard enough and smart enough,” he said.

Can you tell Qubein is a world-renowned motivational speaker?

Oh, and don’t call it luxurious either.

“I think we think of High Point University as a classy place, not a luxurious place,” he said. “There’s a huge difference between simply providing luxurious resources and creating an environment through which a person decides to be the best they can be.”

You’ve just heard the “vision” behind Qubein’s impact on what was a small Methodist college campus 16 years ago before he became its president.

Who hasn’t heard of what’s happened since then: record enrollment (now around 5,600 students, triple the number of 2005), lots of new buildings (more than 100 built from the ground up or renovated), new academic programs (schools of pharmacy, engineering, and communications among others) and a bigger footprint (460 acres compared to 91 when Qubein took office.)

But let’s go back to that higher education “vision.” It’s actually not that complicated: for a university to turn out the best graduates, its students have to have the best higher-learning “experience.”

“So what we’re doing at High Point is create an environment in which people say, ‘you know what, there’s no such thing as unrealistic dreams,” he said.

So when Qubein dreamed of a multi-purpose arena connected to both a hotel and a conference center, he dropped a lot of his own money and raised a bunch more to build the 300,000 square foot Nido and Mariana Qubein Arena and Conference Center/Jana and Ken Kahn Hotel.

“We didn’t borrow one penny,” he told me. “High Point University hasn’t borrowed one nickel in ten years. Our assets have gone up $1.3 billion. And our debt is less than 7% of that.”

He says it was built for three reasons: education, the community and athletics. And there’s a reason education’s first on that list. First and foremost, this entire complex will be a teaching facility.

Students in the university’s hospitality program will essentially run the hotel and its restaurant.

“Because when our students graduate from here in these disciplines, we don’t mind if they go to work for the Marriotts or the Ritz-Carltons and Four Seasons. We don’t make any apology about that,” he told me. “They can get work elsewhere too if they wish.”

The 30-room boutique hotel and its restaurant (It’s called Alo, and it’s Mediterranean-inspired. All student ideas.) will both be open only to those who have planned visits to or business on campus. Neither will be open to the general public.

Event planning majors will help run the 2,500-seat conference center. It will provide meeting space for the university, student organizations and other community partners.

And then there’s the 4,500-seat arena. Students majoring in sports management will be able to practice their craft here. It will also host concerts, major community events, lectures and yes—basketball games.

“And I will be watching basketball games, eating popcorn,” Qubein said. “I don’t cheer, but I scream at the refs quite often!”

All the money this complex makes will go into a scholarship fund to support the university’s goal of boosting its endowment by some $370 million in the next five or six years.

Qubein told me he’s comfortable with the size of the university’s undergraduate population. The priority now is growing the graduate school. It’s why schools of law, dentistry, optometry and nursing are on the drawing board.

And who knows where Qubein’s dreams will take this place next?

“We are on a trajectory of responsible growth, and we will respond to that as necessary as the needs arise,” he said.

Just don’t call it a luxurious basketball arena.

I call it the largest and most significant facility to be built from the ground up in High Point during the last 35 years.

Sure, some may disagree with me. And yes, I could be stretching that a little. But you can’t say it’s not a big dream that’s become a big reality.

For more information on the Nido and Mariana Qubein Arena, Conference Center and Jana and Ken Kahn Hotel, click here.

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