Convention Center Hotel Message to a Friend

I was responding to a message from a friend this morning and figured I’d post what I typed on the blog.


Just read your latest post. Why is the hotel so important? I don’t live in Dallas and I don’t have a say but what is it expected to bring.

I have heard of conferences but with so little entertainment to offer I don’t see that being a big pull. I think it is great that this mayor wants to build up Dallas but I am not sure what or why you all think a hotel is the way to go about it.




That’s a good question and a question I plan to answer in the next few days. The hotel is important to a city like Dallas because convention and tourism is the lifeblood of major cities. New Orleans is taking their time to rebuild living space, but they wasted no time making sure that tourism was protected and back up as soon as possible.

Dallas is the only city in the top 20 convention markets that does not have a convention hotel. Even most opponents agree that the city will benefit from such a venue, they just don’t agree with how it’s being funded.

Regardless of what people say, convention planners like to come to Dallas. When you have a convention on a coast like San Diego -A GREAT CONVENTION CITY- it can be tough for people to travel from the East Coast. Early Departures/ Late Arrivals, jet lag, it all takes away from the experience.

When I was working a convention in Seattle recently they told me attendance was down this year because many of the doctors from the East Coast did not attend. The logistical convenience offered by Chicago, Dallas, (even Houston) offers an initial incentive for our first customer: convention planners.

And there are things to do in Dallas that even folks who live here don’t take advantage of. Ask locals whether they have been to the Nasher Scupture Center and most will say no. Yet it’s one of the reasons the New York Times listed Dallas as #17 in the their list of top #44 cities in the world.

In my initial article on this issues for the Dallas Morning News on December 17, 2007, I stated that Dallas needs both a hotel and improved entertainment options to be successful. In this hotel deal, Matthews Southwest (hotel developer) has committed to raising up to $30 million for entertainment and retail space around the hotel. These are the same people who recruited Brooklyn’s Jazz Cafe to the Southside. I was there on Friday, you could hardly get in.

It’s just one man’s opinion, but I think Jack Matthews is the 21st Century Trammell Crow/Marcus Stanley. Because he’s not from here (like many of us) he’s not bogged down by what can’t happen. “You can’t make money out of that Old Sears Building,” but he did. “You can’t build a successful hotel downtown,” but he will.

The way Matthews treats his African-American retail tenants (which are quite a few) is outstanding, and he’s a huge supporter of “minority owned businesses.” I’m sure that goes for everyone who work and live in his buildings. People love working for the guy. I was on board with the hotel before they announced a developer, but I can tell you my support would not be as strong were it anyone else.


In 2007-2008 the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau booked 1 million room nights, $ 1 billion of economic impact for our city. That’s a record for Dallas and up 20% from the previous year. This had everything to do with the fact that the Dallas City Council approved the hotel.

In the end, I think part of it is that I see Dallas not as it is, but as it will be 5 years from now. I see Dallas with a deck park over Woodall Rogers, a beautiful bridge extending into West Dallas, a Performing Arts Center and Theater that rival any such venues in the world. I even see the stinky Trinity becoming a white water rapids course.

Our city made some mistakes, and if I can borrow a line from our President, much of that took place before I got here. But Dallas has to protect Dallas. Prop 1 and 2 don’t make one person safer, one road smoother, and they don’t save one job. We have to move forward, and that’s what we’ve been able to do in the last 4 or 5 years. We can’t let one person stand in our way for fear that he’ll lose business.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.


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