Dallas would benefit from a Convention Center Hotel
Here's an Op/Ed piece that I wrote which ran in the Dallas Morning News on Monday. Since then I have heard from a number of people, mostly telling me why they feel the hotel hasn't been built. Momentum seems to be building from all sorts of places, but there also seems to be some of the power players who don't want to see this thing built. I'll keep you posted.
The only thing to debate about a proposed convention center hotel is why it has taken so long for the city to formulate a plan. A hotel built near the Dallas Convention Center is essential in helping Dallas gain ground on other cities when vying for convention business.
Some have argued against the proposed hotel, citing the high number of unoccupied rooms that often exist in or around downtown Dallas. While it's true that the "vacant" sign is out at many of our city's hotels, too often this is because the buildings are outdated, poorly located or no longer meet the needs of today's hotel patrons.
New hotels are sprouting up all over the place. Spots like the W, Hotel Palomar, The Belmont and Hotel ZaZa have found a niche as "boutique" hotels.
These posh spots are not the ones concerned about the city moving forward with a publicly subsidized convention center hotel.
The hotels that have the most to lose would be the Adam's Mark, the Hilton Anatole and the Hyatt Regency Dallas. One has only to look at the upcoming Super Bowl headed for the Dallas area in 2011 to see why these businesses aren't eager for a new competitor.
Each is competing to serve as NFL headquarters, which will require a block of 900 rooms.
If a new hotel were built close to the convention center, it seemingly would have the edge because many of the NFL's big events could be held at the convention center with the new hotel as a convenient host headquarters.
The last two times the Super Bowl visited San Diego, that city's Marriott Hotel & Marina served as the headquarters hotel. The Marriott property is within walking distance of San Diego's convention center, as are two other major hotels.
Over the years I have wondered whether Dallas City Council members have ever really left the city. Why? Their view that Dallas is a destination city – an opinion I see as both naive and premature.
Dallas is full of potential, thanks to its climate and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, but it's far from what I would call a first-rate convention locale.
I have attended conventions in all the major cities Dallas fights tooth and nail with for bookings, and here's my assessment: Many of them offer amenities that Dallas does not, but our city could make up ground quickly if it would focus on those factors that are important to conventioneers.
Priority No. 1 is a convenient hotel. Sure, the Dallas Convention Center exhibit space is nearly identical to that of competitor cities such as Orlando, San Diego and Chicago. But there is much more to winning a bid than big rooms and cushy chairs.
A convention center hotel will help close the gap with those cities and serve as the linchpin for more downtown successes. Convention visitors judge a host city by what goes on each day after the meetings are over. Where do we eat? Is there anywhere to shop? How long does it take to get to the hottest night spot?
Las Vegas and Orlando are in a different league when it comes to entertainment for convention visitors. Orlando's Disney and Universal offerings and the world-famous Las Vegas Strip are destinations for travelers from across the world.
We will never have the beaches and near-perfect weather that San Diego offers. But consider the city's Gaslamp Quarter, within walking distance of the convention center. There conventioneers find top-notch dining spots, shopping outlets, night clubs and live music spots.
After a day full of workshops and meetings, the Gaslamp offers a great place to unwind.
Yes, downtown Dallas has a long way to go. But without a convention center hotel, all the other attractions – some of which have sprung up despite the existing convention business – won't make much of a difference.
Public financing directed toward the new hotel complex would be well spent. Before the spigot attached to Dallas City Hall subsides to a trickle, let's spend some of what's available to help construct this hotel.