|By Jessica Lowell, Wyoming Tribune-Eagle|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
May 19, 2004 - CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- Before a convention center can be built in Cheyenne, the task force examining the possibility will have to decide how such a large-scale project will be paid for.
"The financing will determine the site that's chosen," task force member Nick Joannides said Tuesday.
A week after consultants delivered a report with key recommendations about the project, the task force met to determine what steps it will take next.
"Without financing, none of this will happen," said Joannides, who is general manager at the Hitching Post Inn and Conference Center.
For the last several months, Chicago-based consulting firm C.H. Johnson has been evaluating the need for a convention center, and analyzing possible locations and likely cost.
That work has resulted in an estimated design and construction price tag of $32.8 million. That doesn't include the cost to buy land or money to cover the expected operating losses the convention center would have, at least to start with.
At the same time, task force members think it's a good idea to start selling the project to the community to show the benefits of the project to the general public.
That's an important step in the face of a proposed state constitutional amendment that goes before voters later this year that would allow cities, towns and counties to dedicate funds directly for economic development, which could include building a convention center in Cheyenne.
"This is just as important to other communities in the state as it is to us," said committee member and Cheyenne City Councilman Tom Segrave. "We need an economic development bill for the state, rather for a convention center for Cheyenne."
No matter how the task force decides how the project will be paid for, some sort of legislative change will be needed.
"The bottom line is there's no easy fix," task force Chairman and Cheyenne Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Darren Rudloff said. "We're going to have to leverage things together."
Even as that's being studied, the task force is taking on another round of work; developing how the project will be explained to city and county residents; deciding how the center would be owned, governed and paid for; and analyzing the site requirements and development costs.
In its report, C.H. Johnson and its partner Conventional Wisdom recommended four sites: near Little America, near the Hitching Post Inn, on the former Consolidated Freightways site and on property near the West Lincolnway and Missile Drive intersection.
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