|By Kevin Collison, The Kansas City Star,
Mo.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
September 18, 2008 - The city has returned to a familiar source to recommend how it should pursue a 1,000-room convention hotel proposed for downtown Kansas City.
An entity called Convention Center Hotel Advisors has been hired to produce a report in 90 days about how the proposed $300 million facility should be developed and financed, and the process for selecting a site and choosing a potential developer.
Convention Center Hotel Advisors is a partnership formed by Convention Sports & Leisure International and Hospitality Real Estate Counselors. Both companies were involved in a study completed in January 2007 that recommended that the city needed a large headquarters hotel to compete for major conventions.
Convention Sports & Leisure also advised the city in the past on expansions to Bartle Hall, and the feasibility earlier this decade of a new downtown arena.
"Basically, what we want them to do is give us an idea of locations the city could consider, financial structures and operations," said City Manager Wayne Cauthen. "Once we do that, we can bring it to the council and they can make the decision if that's what they want to pursue."
The estimated cost for preparing the report and other expenses is $36,000, according to a letter from Cauthen to the Kansas City Council. Last April, the council authorized Cauthen to hire a consultant to further refine the convention hotel proposal.
The Kansas City Convention and Visitors Association is advocating the idea, pointing out that the city has lost big opportunities because it doesn't have enough hotel rooms within walking distance of the convention center. Association officials say the city needs to have at least 2,000 rooms near Bartle Hall and has only about 800 rooms.
John Kaatz of Convention Sports & Leisure "has had tremendous experience with us over the years," said Rick Hughes, president of the Convention and Visitors Association. The association thought the new partnership could build on Kaatz's previous work in determining the best way to pursue and finance a new hotel.
The 2007 report prepared by Convention Sports & Leisure indicated that there were two main ways similar projects had been done in other parts of the country: a direct or indirect city financial contribution to the project, or the establishment of a public authority that would issue tax-exempt bonds for the project.
In 2000, Overland Park aided the construction of its 412-room convention hotel on College Boulevard by issuing tax-exempt bonds and buying the land for the $87 million project. A citywide hotel tax was pledged to back the bonds.
In Denver, the new 1,100-room Hyatt Regency used as the headquarters for the recent Democratic National Convention was built by an authority established by the city.
How the coming consultants' report will be received at City Hall is unknown.
Cauthen, who was involved in the early stages of developing the Denver project, is a strong supporter. Mayor Mark Funkhouser has displayed little or no enthusiasm for the idea.
The city manager has not gauged council opinion on the topic, saying the discussion regarding light rail has been a bigger priority in recent months. Cauthen did say he had gotten support from the business community for the hotel proposal.
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