|The Hays Daily News,
Kan.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
May 11, 2010 -- What was bad enough anecdotally looks like it could be becoming financial reality. And that does not bode well for the Hays community.
For approximately the past 12 months, overnight guests and convention-goers have been lodging complaints about the Hays Ramada Convention Center. Whether posted to online travel sites or made in person to the Hays Convention and Visitors Bureau, visitors have not been shy to share their experiences with room cleanliness and customer service.
"It's just kind of across-the-board complaints about the lack of service and the condition of the property," said Jana Jordan, director of the Hays CVB, a few months ago.
Despite assurances by Ramada management to remedy the hotel's issues, the complaints keep coming. And, according to Jordan more recently, local convention business is slowing down. During the past year, the number of Hays conventions has dropped from 21 to 12. Transient guest tax collections also fell 6 percent.
Considering one convention alone can produce between $300,000 and $700,000 for the local economy, the financial effect already numbers in the millions. For a city accustomed to the inflow of out-of-town dollars to help sustain its infrastructure, this is not good news.
We would have anticipated a slowdown in the tourism industry the past year due to the national recession. The opening of the Boot Hill Casino & Resort in Dodge City likely has had an effect as well on regional business. Those two factors are beyond the control of anybody in Hays.
But there is nothing like a negative stay at the convention center to drive existing business elsewhere. We visited with an official from Kansas Special Olympics during their recent annual state basketball and cheerleading competition in Hays.
This individual, who was speaking on behalf of more than 1,600 athletes and coaches -- plus family members and friends, initially believed the group was given bad service and substandard rooms because of who they were.
We had to convince her that Special Olympics did not receive any special treatment at the Hays Ramada Convention Center. It was par for the course.
The situation is more than embarrassing. It is affecting every resident of the city, even if indirectly.
So we are encouraged the city is accepting proposals for a possible new convention center. There are at least two developers who have expressed interest in a private-public venture of some sort.
Hays is not big enough to accommodate two competing convention centers. It is, however, big enough for one decent operation.
As plans are formulated to accomplish that goal, we would caution the city and the developer to be mindful that the Ramada still would be open and carrying the Hays Convention Center as part of its name. This will need to be taken into account when putting together financial projections and budgetary impacts.
That being said, we appreciate the pro-active position the city has taken. Something must be done -- and quickly. Too much is at stake.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry
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