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Graduation caps hotel availability

By Katie Mark
On March 26, 2013

Miami University's annual graduation ceremony is a perennial parental pilgrimage, drawing in a large influx of visitors, which Oxford's small crop of hotels have difficulty fully accommodating.

According to Kathy Butterfield, general manager of the Best Western Sycamore Inn, 6 E Sycamore St., every year people begin calling the day after graduation to book one of its 61 rooms for the next year's ceremony.

"They start calling a year in advance," Butterfield said. "But the way our system is set up, we can't take reservations until 11 months in advance. We have a specific call-in date."

According to Butterfield, it is all hands on deck as she and four other desk clerks take reservations on the call-in date. For the 2014 spring commencement, reservations can be made starting at 1:00 p.m. Sunday, June 23.

"We will sell out in 15 minutes and then we take a waiting list," Butterfield said. "We each take 10 names and that's forty people. And that sells out in the next 15 to 20 minutes, so then we start referring people to other hotels."

The Courtyard by Marriott in Hamilton, 1 Riverfront Plaza, holds their call-in date on June 1, according to Shawn Stidham, director of sales. However, Stidham said requests for the following year's graduation consistently begin before the current year's ceremony.

"Because our reservation system will only let you make a reservation about 48 to 50 weeks out, we set June first as the date we tell everybody we'll be taking reservations for Miami graduation," Stidham said. "We will sell out by the end of the day and we'll take a waiting list."

Butterfield said once they are fully booked, she refers potential patrons to other hotels she knows still have room.

"I'm not going to send someone up to The Elms if they're already booked," Butterfield said.

While Hamilton has a couple of motels, the 120-room Marriott is Hamilton's only hotel, according to Stidham.

"We are the closest Marriott hotel to Miami and I think we are the closest hotel not in Oxford," Stidham said. "Anytime there's anything at Miami that fills up the hotels there, we are usually the first hotel outside of Oxford to fill up based on the overflow."

Once the Marriott fills up, people start going to West Chester, Fairfield and Middletown, according to Stidham.

There are unconventional lodging accommodations as well. Tari Spurlock's Presidio Pines Bed & Breakfast, 3152 Oxford-Trenton Road, is located on a little farm three miles from campus.

"I have five rooms and this year I'm renting out two of my guest rooms up at the house," Spurlock said. "I have families that come and rent the whole house so they can have parties and bring the whole family in."

Spurlock said she books her bed and breakfast as far out as a family would like, and is currently booked until 2016. She emphasized the flexibility of Presidio Pines and her distance from the house, maximizing the number of available rooms.

"I'm very flexible," Spulock said. "I fix them a nice four-course breakfast. They can come and go as they want."

For those choose to book a hotel, Stidham said they receive cancellations as people find out someone's not graduating or discover they can get a room in Oxford.

"At special events, we charge their credit card 45 days prior to graduation and we see cancellations 45 days out, but we've got a waiting list of people who are ready to jump right on," Stidham said.

Butterfield said the number of cancellations vary.

"I've been here for 22 years and there's been a couple times where we haven't had any cancellations," Butterfield said. "For example, last year we had several cancellations and we were able to get to the waiting list, so it depends."

Butterfield said some hotels such as The Elms, 75 S. Main St., consider loyalty when accepting reservations for overbooked timeslots.

"If you stay so many nights at her property during the year then that's how she calculates," Butterfield said. "So it also depends on the property."

Senior David Ruedi's family has been able to book rooms easily because they have stayed at The Elms since his sister was at Miami in 2009.

"My family gets priority because they've stayed there so many times," Ruedi said. "But I still think they reserved rooms for graduation at the very beginning of the year."

For those who are not as fortunate, Butterfield has some recommendations, most importantly, to be persistent.

"If the line is busy, keep trying to call back," Butterfield said. "Even if we are sold out we can still put you on the waiting list or at least give you another hotel option to call. Be patient."

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