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The U Experience postpones Tanglewood "bubble" college campus

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
Representatives for The U Experience announced this week that plans to open a college "bubble" campus at Tanglewood Resort have been postponed for the spring semester.

The "bubble" college campus that reportedly previously had its eye on Texoma may not be coming to the region for the spring semester after all.  Representatives for The U Experience said this week that the project has been postponed and will not be moving forward at this time.

The U Experience was expect to open at Tanglewood Resort in Pottsboro on Jan. 28 as a campus for students who were studying remotely from various universities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The  campus promised to give students the "college experience" without social distancing in a safe, enclosed environment.

"The project has been postponed," spokesperson Steve Honig said Wednesday. "It became apparent that the company was not going to be able to do this in the way they wanted and make it as great  as they know it could be. So, rather than  do anything less than perfect, they decided to postpone it."

Honig said there were no other details about when or if the project would move forward at this time. 

The company was created by Princeton alumni Chris Cook, Lane Russell and Adam Bragg as a response to many colleges going remote for lessons and lectures in 2020 and early 2021.

"This last spring, millions of college students were impacted. They were pulled from their support network and  truly were missing out on the college experience," The U Experience President Adam Bragg said last year.

The trio planned to full rent out Tanglewood from late January through late April and limit outside contact within the campus. Through this and ample testing, organizers said they hoped to create a safe space where about 125 students would be able to have the college experience without the need of social distancing and other precautions.

While the company received a warm reception from Tanglewood Resort, in a year that has proven difficult for the entire hospitality industry, the program received some criticism locally from officials who felt that it was poorly timed and inappropriate during a pandemic. Pottsboro Mayor Frank Budra said the company was "courting disaster" with its plans to bring students to Texoma during the unprecedented public health emergency.

"My thoughts are that as a business, they are probably encouraging this as a way to generate income, and it is legal," Budra referred to Tanglewood. "Whether it is advisable is something completely different."

"Is it advisable? In my opinion, I would say it is not. It is courting disaster," he continued.

As of Wednesday, the website for the U Experience was still online advertising for the spring semester at Tanglewood Resort, complete with pictures of the hotel and aerial shots of the site.

Likewise, many of the company's social media accounts have been quiet in recent weeks, with no updates or indication that the program had been postponed. The last post on the company's Instagram account was on Dec. 21, and advertised a price cut with double-queen rooms starting at $3,800 per person for the semester.

"We've decided to reduce our program price by expanding the size of our class," the post says.