With not enough guests to justify a $75,000 annual upkeep, the University Guest House may close again



Gina Potthoff and Gina Potthoff

The University’s Guest House will be vacated and available for rent once again in July.

Due to budget constraints, the University closed its Guest House, located at 711 Urschel Drive, last summer. University Board of Trustees Chair Bob Sebo has been leasing the property since that time to temporarily alleviate the University expense.

“It gives [the University] a year to decide what to do with the house,” Sebo said. “Turned out to be a good deal for me and the University.”

Sebo said the Guest House provides a nice, convenient place to stay when he is in Bowling Green attending centennial events or board meetings and doesn’t want to drive home to Salem, Ohio. He is grateful to have a place to spend a couple nights a semester in the city until his lease is up June 30, even if he doesn’t stay in the house often enough to justify the $1,000 per month rent.

“I have no idea what use Bowling Green is going to put it to,” Sebo said. “It’s a very nice facility.”

The 2,874 square foot Guest House, which cost the University $75,000 a year to maintain prior to this year, was built in 1932. The two-floor, 13-room house will likely be closed again in July.

University President Carol Cartwright said it was convenient for Sebo to stay in the house as chairman, but the facility will probably be closed again because the utilities and housekeeping fees are too high to justify its infrequent use as temporary lodging for distinguished guests.

The University even looked into converting the Guest House into Greek housing or another type of student residence, but the conversion costs to bring it up to code weren’t feasible, she said.

“The price tag was huge,” Cartwright said.

Getting the building suitable for students is “cost prohibitive” and includes putting in a sprinkler system and making the building handicap accessible, which would cost the University about $100,000, said Dave Kielmeyer, senior director of marketing and communications.

“For how seldom it was used, it didn’t make good financial sense,” he said.

In addition to the Guest House, the University owns six other properties it rents out to new, transitioning employees who can stay three months before paying rent. Owning several rental properties surrounding campus is a good recruitment tool and is a common University practice, Kielmeyer said.

“It’s a nice resource in recruiting faculty and staff,” he said.

But the University was losing money to maintain the Guest House with no rent money coming in.

“It wasn’t making any money, but the purpose of the Guest House was not intended to make money,” said Violet Jacobs, housekeeping manager who worked at the facility for 30 of her nearly 32 years at the University. “I just know that they decided it was time to get rid of it.”

The job she loved dearly was eliminated when Sebo began leasing the house last summer. Now Jacobs only readies the house for his infrequent, short visits.

“I tried to get them to keep it as a guest house,” she said. “The people who stayed there just loved it.”

Even though the Guest House will likely be out of commission, Kielmeyer said important guests and potential employees could still stay at the University’s other rental properties instead of footing hotel bills.