Booked hotels leave families frantic over graduation weekend

By Gus Bode

With graduation just 17 days away, the only worries on some students’ minds are end of the semester workloads and final exams. But for those participating in the upcoming commencement ceremonies, worries of finding a hotel still linger.

Up and down Route 13, hotels from Marion to Murphysboro are booked solid for May 13 and 14, the University’s slated dates for spring 2005 graduation.

And with more than 3,000 students scheduled to graduate and just 663 rooms between the nine hotels and motels in Carbondale, the problem does not seem to be going away any time soon.

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“People are calling and begging for rooms, and we just don’t have anything to give them,” Horizon Inn desk manager Gina Morsch said.

Desk clerks and hotel managers across the city are having the same problem.

Hampton Inn desk clerk Toni Anderson said although the hotel has been booked for almost a year now, it continues to get upwards of 10 calls a day from people looking for rooms and have turned between 300 and 500 people away.

“As it gets closer, it gets worse,” Anderson said. “The calls get frantic.”

Justin Gould, a senior in history from Evanston, said his parents and sister are staying at his cramped apartment for the weekend because hotels are booked solid.

A professed procrastinator, Gould said the city needs more hotels and expressed frustration with the situation.

“My family is staying in my one-bedroom apartment,” Gould said. “And I don’t feel very good about that. There aren’t enough hotels. It’s part of the procrastination, but there still aren’t enough hotels.”

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For students planning to graduate next May, the construction of a new $8 million Holiday Inn might provide some relief.

The five story, 100-room hotel will be located adjacent to Holiahan’s Restaurant in the Reed Station Crossing Subdivision. Construction on the building began April 4 and is scheduled to be completed in February.

Carbondale Mayor Brad Cole said while the new hotel will not come close to meeting the demand for rooms, it is a start and will not only provide an additional hundred-plus jobs for the area but will also help keep money in the city.

“We could use at least 300 or 400 new rooms in Carbondale,” Cole said. “And because we don’t have them, that’s money that’s going to other communities based purely on people wanting to come to Carbondale, but there’s not enough room for them.”

Morsch, who said the Horizon Inn has been booked for graduation weekend for more than six months, said she has heard of people staying as far away as Metropolis, Mt. Vernon and Anna.

And though she sympathizes with students and their parents and agrees that more hotels are needed, she said it is a risky business because outside of graduation and other special University occasions, including Homecoming and Family weekend, there are a lot of down times when the hotels don’t make much money at all.

“It’s terrible that people have to drive so far away to come see their kids graduate,” Morsche said. “But our success is dictated by what is happening at the University, and on special event weekends, there’s a need. But there’s a lot of slow times.”

Kayla Grobe, a 21-year-old junior studying photography from Ottawa who plans to graduate next May, said she has not thought about making hotel reservations.

Like Gould, Grobe said uncertainty as to whether or not she will actually graduate has caused her to procrastinate.

Abhishek Gupta, an employee at the Quality Inn in Carbondale, said although hotels are booked, people tend to change their plans at the last minute. Gupta said the best advise he can give to people still looking for hotels rooms is to continue to call for cancellations.

“Keep calling,” Gupta said. “There’s always a chance you can find a room.”

Reporter Ashley Richardson can be reached at [email protected]

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