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 An Example of Poor Planning? The $207 million
 "Hotel-less" Virginia Beach Convention Center


By Kerry Dougherty, The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, Va.McClatchy-Tribune Business News

Mar. 22, 2007 - Let's not kid ourselves; everyone in Virginia Beach knew this was coming.

Still, hearing a consultant tell City Council members they'd made a colossal mistake -- that they wasted $207 million on the new convention center -- was startling.

OK, hair splitters will argue that the expert didn't exactly say that. The consultant -- did I mention he cost 80 grand? -- said the money would be wasted if a headquarters hotel isn't built next to the convention center.

Same thing.

"If governments want to be in the convention business... they've got to build a hotel," Don Hunter said.

That makes the new hotel-less convention center the latest example of poor planning and outrageous extravagance to hit the Beach.

Next thing you know, council members will wring their hands, shrug their shoulders and retreat into secret sessions to cook up a sweet deal for some lucky hotel developer.

When they come out, they'll giddily promise that a "four-star" hotel is on its way. An edifice so magnificent that it not only will rescue the convention center but also will invigorate the city's tourism industry.

Meanwhile, taxpayers will be at home, gaping at their property tax bills and wondering whether it's time to move to Manteo.

It'll probably be a decade or more before anyone knows whether building a headquarters hotel was a smart move or another instance of what my mother would have called "throwing good money after bad."

Frankly, I'm not sure if there's any way to battle City Hall on this. The consultant was just a formality. It's been in the works for ages.

Just raise the white flags and prepare to surrender your hard-earned cash. A hotel likely is coming and will have to be built with public giveaways: free land, tax breaks, parking garages or other "incentives."

No hotel chain would dare to spend only its own money on such a risky venture. So our City Council seems ready to rush in where the capitalists fear to tread. Why not? It's only tax dollars.

If the Beach decides to go for the headquarters hotel, it won't matter what name's on the marquee. Taxpayers will know what to call it.

The Heartbreak Hotel.

-- Reach Kerry at (757) 446-2306 or


Copyright (c) 2007, The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, Va.

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