by Larry Mundy
|There are, quite simply, not enough conventions in this country.
That’s not to say that we are for some reason an antisocial people. Most of us like to get together in big groups and hear uplifting speakers and chat with our colleagues from other cities and eat the standard rubber chicken and squishy peas that are the staple of lunch for 1,000 people, when the facility’s banquet kitchen is the size of a suburban bathroom. Well, maybe we don’t like that part, but we do like to get together, and we’ll suffer all the considerable indignities of travel to get there. And increasingly, we don’t have to travel that far, because an increasing number of groups sponsor regional meetings and conventions all over the country.
But that’s also part of the problem. It seems like every city, town, village or hamlet in the country is planning a “convention center.” If your hometown is big enough to have a McDonalds and a Wal-Mart, I guarantee someone on your city council is planning a convention facility to “put this town on the map.”
It’s already on the map, of course. What they really mean is, “We have the all-county quilting bee here every second weekend in June. It’s getting too big to fit in the high-school cafeteria. There are always empty rooms at the Bates Motel out on the highway. If we had a proper convention center, we might just get big conventions with people spending big money at Ed’s Drug Store.” Mind you, this town is likely to be 49 miles from the nearest airport, which is only in operation when the runway’s been freshly mowed, and is only accessible by a two-lane highway when it’s not falling-rock season. But a committee is formed and a consultant is hired, and by George, the momentum starts for building a proper convention center.
The resulting consultant’s report starts by pandering to the town council, reciting what a wonderful little town they have and how visitors from all over would sure enjoy the beautiful spring weather and the natural waterfall just 7 miles to the east and the historical spot where General Lee’s horse died. Then there are charts and graphs that to any objective reader would clearly say “The lights will be on three days a year. If you build it, they won’t come.” But there is no objectivity on the town council, and the bond issue passes, and yet another totally unnecessary convention center becomes a burden on the taxpayers of yet another small town.
If you are a meeting planner, you can rent this facility for a weekend, for less than the cost of a CD of elevator music. Some towns will even pay you to send your group to their center, so they look a little less silly having built it in the first place. But you know that the meeting will be a bust if you schedule it in such an out-of-the-way place, so the new convention center gets the quilting bee and the high-school prom and the semiannual Hereford auction and not much else.
Soon every town in America will have an unused convention center, and the new city council will be hiring consultants for recommendations on what to do with a huge, empty building. I foresee a bright future for indoor go-kart racing tracks, paintball courses and climate-controlled storage. Or, it could be subdivided and all of the local residents could simply move into it. They paid for it, after all.
Larry Mundy works for a hotel company in Dallas. His views are his own, and may differ considerably from those of a sane person."
|Also See:||Soon Every Town in America Will Have an Unused Convention Center / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006|
|Hotel Pool Safety 101 / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006|
|Where Not To Build a Hotel / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006|
|“Exterior Corridors” – Disappearing, Because They Never Existed / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy|
|My Top Ten Worst Hotel Inventions / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / April 2006|
|Bed Tech / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / April 2006|
|A Sense of Arrival / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / April 2006|