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Your Views: Cities learning convention sites often become bad investments

POSTED: October 25, 2013 1:00 a.m.

On Oct. 17, The Times wrote that Gainesville city officials are analyzing a proposal to fund a hotel and convention center that might possibly generate some jobs and revenue.

I’d suggest the officials use Google as an analysis tool. I did. I found convention centers that either were foreclosed upon or for sale or sold well below appraised value at the last minute to avoid foreclosure due to their lack of business in the following cities: Pontiac, Mich., Sept. 2012, with taxes not paid since 2009; Memphis, Tenn., convention center valued at $8.1 million, sold for $4.4 million; St. Louis, Mo., auctioned off in 2009; Gatlinburg, Tenn., auctioned off ahead of foreclosure, Jan. 6; Eau Claire, Wis., facing foreclosure in April; Washington State convention center, auction date set by King County for Dec. 13; Cleveland, Ohio,

The Arcade convention center and hotel was auctioned off last year when the owner defaulted on a $33.3 million note; and the Jacksonville, Fla., Hyatt Regency Hotel and convention center transferred back to lenders after $150 million default.

Taxpayers have also lost many millions of dollars on convention centers in Columbus, Ohio, Dallas, Texas, Minneapolis, Minn., Austin, Texas, and Phoenix, Ariz., and the state of Maryland is pay the bills for the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel and convention center, which is in danger of defaulting.

McCormick Place in Chicago cost taxpayers $1 billion in the 1990s, $900 million in 2007, and is now at only 55 percent capacity for conventions. Boston taxpayers have “invested” $230 million for Hynes Convention Center, $800 million for the Boston Convention and Exhibit Center, which is at 50 percent capacity and the city wants $2 billion more. Sacramento, Calif., is subsidizing its convention center with $800,000 in tax dollars per year.

Convention and trade show demand has dropped every year since the 1990s. Good luck.

Rick Frommer
Murrayville


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