Tuesday , 24 April 2018

Opinion: If We Build It, Will They Come?

Opinion: If We Build It, Will They Come?

Opinion: If We Build It, Will They Come?

The lawsuit has been settled regarding the 90 acre Gateway project at the northeast corner of State Hwy 121 and Central Expressway, which was supposed to be a grand project of retail shops, a convention center and a Westin Hotel. The project came to a screeching halt when funds from the California based developer O&S Holding dried up in October of 2008. O&S filed for bankruptcy a year later and after nearly two years of wrangling, the suit was settled in early Dec. 2010.

City officials now have to decide how to move forward. As engineers are evaluating the situation, it is apparent that the choices are to move forward with the original plan, modify it, bulldoze what is currently there and start all over or move the project to another location.

The question is, does our city need a convention center?

The original plan for the Gateway project called for a 221 room Westin Hotel and a 43,000 square-foot convention center. As our city debates what the next steps should be, maybe it isn’t too late to voice an opinion. Does this original plan have it backwards? Although the huge 43,000 square foot conference center would be next door, the Westin would only have occupancy for approximately 450.

What kinds of groups would make McKinney their convention destination when we don’t have the attractions that a Las Vegas, a South Beach, a Chicago or New York have?  We are a family community. We have terrific golf courses, a charming downtown area and little else for groups to occupy themselves with in the course of three or four days. We would, however, in my opinion, be a great place to bring in a corporate group for training, for example. The group would be in breakout sessions much of the day and we could certainly offer a day of golf or shopping, dining at our great restaurants, etc.

If we build a 43,000 square foot convention center, will we end up with an albatross rising in our midst that will sit empty a good deal of the time? Ask the City of Waxahachie how much business their convention center brings in each year. I know we are set to be the 4th largest city in the Metroplex at build-out, however, I continue to ask the question, will our identity as a great place to live and raise a family change? Will we be, at some point in the future, a city with attractions (think Six Flags, Sea World, big sports or concert venues, night clubs, etc.) Can we become both a great place to live and a great place for entertainment down the road? Maybe so…. I’m just asking!

More questions come to mind. (I invite you to post your questions or answers in our comment section below – don’t forget to log -in first)
If we build it, will they come? Who would run a convention center?  The city? How does our city fund that? Would we be better served if the private sector – big name hotel – takes the lead and builds a hotel/conference center? Is the Gateway location the best place to put a hotel/conference center?

I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve traveled extensively, experienced business conventions with corporations and incentive trips of all kinds. An upscale hotel, with excellent dining, fitness center and meetings rooms would, in my mind, meet McKinney’s needs. We are lacking space to have large wedding receptions and to hold galas for more than 400 people within our city limits. Currently,  McKinney does not have meeting space for large corporate groups, but a great hotel/conference center could fill that vacuum. The hotel, not the city, would be responsible for selling the space, bringing in and managing groups.

The McKinney Convention and Visitors Bureau (MCVB) works tirelessly to sell McKinney to overnight travelers, as well as corporations and groups for meetings. Heads in beds increases tax revenue for our city and brings dollars to area restaurants and retail centers. MCVB has consistently noted a need for a product that they can sell to corporations – namely a large, upscale hotel.

A study by outside consultants on the feasibility of the original Gateway project is in process. I’ll be anxious to see what those results conclude.  With budgets tight and not likely to improve in the near future, I would hate to see our city spend dollars on a project that could become a never ending money pit.

What do you think?  (To comment, please log in)

Is McKinney’s identity as a city that is a great place to live and raise a family going to change?

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