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Is it Time to Add a Hotel Next to the Minneapolis, Minnesota Convention Center?

Feasibility Studies Underway Exploring a 1,000-room Hotel

By Eric Roper, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Jan. 23, 2013--Two publicly funded studies are simultaneously exploring the feasibility of placing a 1,000-room hotel next to the Minneapolis Convention Center.

The concept has been batted around for many years -- and been the subject of many previous studies -- but it still interests Hennepin County and the city's tourism and convention board, Meet Minneapolis.

Meet Minneapolis, which gets more than 80 percent of its budget from city sales taxes, is paying $80,000 for two consulting groups to examine the need for a convention center hotel. That follows a $48,300 study in 2004 and a $12,000 update on the same topic in 2006.

"We have requested [the consultants] to do a complete study as market conditions in Minneapolis have significantly changed since that time," Meet Minneapolis CEO Melvin Tennant wrote to a council member earlier this month.

Tennant's group, which is tasked with attracting conventions to the city, says that the lack of a convention hotel is the No. 1 reason Minneapolis loses "city-wide events." But several years ago the notion of a convention hotel got a cool reception because of a hotel room boom and a lack of City Hall appetite to publicly subsidize it.

"No study is needed to form my opinion that if this is something the private sector will not finance or do on their own with private equity then government has no business funding or financing it," Council Member Lisa Goodman wrote in an e-mail. "Over a thousand hotel rooms have been built with private money in the past 5 years. Financing a large new hotel with below market interest rates undercuts all of that private investment. In my opinion we have no business doing that."

Hennepin County, meanwhile, is examining the possibility of building a 1,000-room hotel on the county-owned Century Plaza office building on 12th Street. That space will be available when human services functions are relocated.

Like Meet Minneapolis, Hennepin County has also previously paid consultants to study the idea. The current study cost the county $48,000.

The Meet Minneapolis study is due out in February. Hennepin County's final report is slated for this summer.

Eric Roper --612-673-1732 Twitter: @StribRoper


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