Some thought it would never happen, but Stockton University students finally will move into the Showboat in Atlantic City due to COVID-19.
The pandemic has caused a need for more housing options for the university, which announced Friday it was finalizing an agreement to provide up to 400 rooms this fall at the hotel, which it once owned in its first bid to open an Atlantic City campus.
“We do understand the irony, but this is the best option for our students,” Stockton spokeswoman Diane D’Amico said.
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Due to social distancing restrictions amid the pandemic that reduce the number of students permitted in each existing housing unit, the college put out a request for proposals for additional housing options, a practice it has done in the past.
Of the responses, D’Amico said, Showboat’s was the most reasonable.
“We appreciate Showboat’s willingness to welcome our students and provide them with an environment that will be both safe and enjoyable,” Stockton President Harvey Kesselman said.
The agreement will provide up to 300 single rooms and 100 double rooms, and at least 250 dedicated parking spaces for students who are placed there. Students will have access to the onsite fitness facility, as well as an entertainment lounge, rooftop pool deck and a business/study lounge. Students will also have access to meals on site, and rooms will have a microwave and mini-fridge.
Stockton will have staff living on site, and Showboat will provide space at the front desk for university personnel. The per-semester rates for the rooms will be $4,500 for a single and $3,800 for a double, which is competitive with similar on-campus housing.
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“We are thrilled to partner with Stockton to enhance the college experience in Atlantic City,” said Brandon Dixon, president of Tower Investments, the company that owns Showboat. “Students can now room at the Showboat and enjoy all the amenities of the hotel and its Boardwalk location, while living at a treasured icon of local history. Having the students here will also bring a new exciting energy to the north side of the Boardwalk.”
Stockton had previously purchased the Showboat property in 2015 for $18 million — a deal that was marred by a lack of due diligence when it was revealed after the sale that a deed restriction prevented Stockton from operating the former casino property as it desired.
The debacle forced then-college President Herman Saatkamp to retire.
Developer Bart Blatstein, CEO of Tower, purchased Showboat from Stockton for $23 million in 2016, and the Showboat has been operating as a non-casino hotel for the past four years. Stockton moved ahead with a new plan for an Atlantic City campus and opened a 500-bed facility on Albany Avenue in 2018.
Earlier this month, after being closed since March due to COVID-19, Stockton announced it would be reopening its two campuses — in Galloway Township and Atlantic City — to students this fall with several online and in-person options for students.
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Stockton Executive Director of Residential Life Steven Radwanski said the college wants to house as many students as request it.
Typically, about a third of Stockton’s almost 10,000 undergraduate students live in campus housing in Galloway and Atlantic City.
D’Amico said the college plans to use the existing 42 housing units on Chris Gaupp Drive in Galloway to temporarily house students who are living on campus then test positive for the virus.
Housing assignments will be distributed in August, D’Amico said.