The University of St. Thomas said Thursday that it has decided to sell the Daniel C. Gainey Conference Center in Owatonna, Minn., “because it cannot continue to operate the center in a financially sustainable manner.”
Any expansion, the university said, “would not overcome ongoing weaknesses in the conference-services market.”
The 31-year-old center, which encompasses 180 acres, includes a replica of a French Norman country house; the conference center, which includes meeting rooms, dining facilities and 35 guest rooms; a classroom building; two smaller houses and horse barns.
St. Thomas President Julie Sullivan said in a statement, “Unfortunately, we don’t believe we can return the center to break-even status in a way that remains consistent with our educational mission.”
The center’s 16 employees, most of whom live in the Owatonna area, will retain their jobs as long as the center is open.
St. Thomas said it will keep the center open during the marketing process and will select a broker soon, but no firm asking price has been established. St. Thomas said it will retain the ownership rights to the Winton Guest House, designed by architect Frank Gehry, either on the Gainey property or on a new site.
The center is named after Daniel C. Gainey, who was president and CEO of Jostens from 1933 to 1968 and was friends with Monsignor Terrence Murphy, president of St. Thomas from 1966 to 1991. When Gainey died in 1979, the foundation bearing his name left the property to St. Thomas. The $1.5 million center opened in August 1982.