|By Kevin Collison, The Kansas City Star,
Mo.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
May 21, 2009--The Kansas City Council was asked today to allocate $150,000 to move forward with a plan that calls for starting construction of a 1,000-room downtown convention hotel by 2011.
The proposal, which was forwarded to committee, would authorize City Manager Wayne Cauthen to move forward with the process of selecting a site, development team and financing team for the estimated $300 million project by the end of 2010.
The earliest the hotel could be completed would be late 2013.
The plan presented by Convention Center Hotel Advisors is expected to be supported by the Council on the condition that whatever public-private financing method is chosen does not jeopardize the city general fund.
"Any financing method we use has got to protect the general fund, that's the only standard," said Jeffrey A. Yates, the city finance director.
The two methods expected to be explored by the city are either a direct or indirect city financial contribution to the project, or the establishment of a public authority that would issue tax-exempt bonds,.
"The majority of the recent U.S. headquarters hotel transactions have involved some for of tax-exempt financing," according to the consultant report.
"Going forward, any headquarters hotel transaction in Kansas City should be structured to minimize any financial risk to the city, while providing the greatest likelihood of successfully financing, developing and operating the hotel."
The Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association strongly supports the proposal, saying the area has lost up to $4 billion in potential convention business because it lacks adequate hotel rooms near Bartle Hall.
A study found Kansas City badly trailing its convention city rivals with 1,994 rooms within a 1/2 -mile radius of the convention center.
San Antonio, Texas, which opened a 1,000-room Hyatt last year, has 8,733 rooms within that radius; Denver, which opened a 1,000-room Hyatt Regency in 2005, has 6,400 rooms, and Indianapolis, which has several hotels totaling 1,624 rooms underway, had 5,042.
Rick Hughes, the president of the CVA, said Kansas City has not had a new hotel developed downtown since the approximately 1,000-room Downtown Marriott, originally the Vista International Hotel, opened in 1985.
"Every other top convention community in the nation has developed a major convention hotel in recent years, but for almost 30 years, Kansas City has not," Hughes said.
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