Consultant pushes convention center
Glenwood Springs can expect to lose money each year from an operational standpoint if it goes into the convention center business.But it might recoup that money, and then some, because of the tourism the center would bring to town, a consultant told City Council.”The reason for the investment is really the economic impact,” said Bill Krueger, of Convention Sports & Leisure of Minneapolis.He said such centers usually lose money operationally but expose a lot of newcomers to what a city has to offer. Many of those people are corporate decision-makers who might decide to bring their families back to visit, or even choose to open a branch office locally.”They see what you’re all about, what you have to offer,” Krueger said.Krueger said Glenwood Springs has several assets that favor convention-center business, such as its resort nature, affordability as a destination, and relative ease of access by air or car.The city could lose some business to other convention centers in the region, however, Krueger said.Marianne Virgili, executive director of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, said one challenge is that people from Denver can choose from a lot of resort-town convention centers that offer special room rates in an attempt to boost offseason lodging business.But she thinks the city is in a good position to open a convention center, with new attractions that eventually could include a whitewater park, and revised in-town bus service that features free rides and frequent service to core tourist areas.Glenwood Meadows had contracted with Krueger’s firm to look into the possibility of a convention center opening as part of a possible hotel at the development, which also includes commercial and residential components. But Meadows developer Robert Macgregor said that so far hotels, while showing modest interest in coming to the development, are showing no interest in building a center on their own.If the city wants to open a center, it might have to choose between funding it itself or going into a partnership with a private entity. Virgili said she thinks a public-private partnership is the only way a center would work in Glenwood Springs.The city currently faces a tight financial situation, which would make it harder for it to build and operate a center on its own. But Krueger noted that a public-private partnership also can result in differing goals, and some lack of city control over the center’s operations.He said Glenwood Meadows is similar to the kind of area that other communities are looking at for locating a convention center. Its mix of retail, restaurants and attractions within walking distance make it appealing to convention center business, he said.”It may be a no-brainer if a new hotel is going to go in there anyway,” he said.Virgili said that if the city decides to go further with the idea, it will be important to talk to existing lodging operators in town.”We’re going to need to bring them into this discussion and have them in favor of it,” she said.Krueger said all lodging facilities in a community benefit from a convention center because room demand rises and spills across town. But it’s not always easy to convince those facilities of that, he said.Council member Dan Richardson said he’d like to see the city have discussions with Virgili and existing lodging operators before proceeding with a feasibility study.Council member Bruce Christensen said he isn’t optimistic about the chances of a convention center succeeding in Glenwood Springs. He said he believes the investment would be risky, and it would be hard to compete with centers elsewhere.While council came to no conclusion on the idea Thursday, council members Dave Merritt and Joe O’Donnell said they would like to see the city pursue it further. Merritt said the city is currently turning away potential convention business due to a lack of adequate space.He said he thinks the city is an appropriately size to hold meetings of 200 to 400 people, if it had a place to do so.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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