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Listen to businesses about Evansville Downtown hotel

December 24, 2014

This is my letter to Evansville Courier and Press Newspaper, published today, it was in response to article published Dec 18, 2014 that city couldn’t move forward with downtown hotel project.

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Imagine my surprise when I read the blunder about the downtown hotel on Dec. 19. (No really I wasn’t) — Mr. Winnecke & Co. pushed for a downtown hotel based on consultant from Chicago who per “Hunden Strategic Partners” website biography, is another politician who has not operated or ran a hospitality business! Yet Mr. Hunden told our Mayor ” … that the (253-room) hotel will have sold-out conventions maybe 12 to 36 times a year”, Mr. Mayor, I could have saved the city half the consulting fees by asking me and I would have told you the hotel will be sold out 10-45 times per year based on my travels!

I understand cities and states give incentives for companies to create and build projects that would bring prosperity for the region. On the other hand if you had a private investor “John Dunn the CEO of Dunn hospitality” who argued that a smaller hotel in downtown without public support is better option, then I would have given this a serious look as a mayor especially if downtown already has two hotels, Tropicana and Le Merigot, with total of 350 rooms. If convention/meetings pick up and the need for more hotel rooms arise then I’m more than certain private investors would jump on it to build more hotels downtown, capitalists and investors don’t like their hard earned dollars sitting in banks earning nothing!

Speaking of banks, this brings us to Old National Bank crying foul of naming rights! Only way I can think of is either ONB didn’t do their due diligence before agreeing to be an investor and now looking for a way out or they just have cold feet about this whole process and want to negate on the agreement! If ONB is giving the $6.5 million as a gift or paying it as naming rights then by all means that’s their right to ask for, but if ONB is an investor like Evansville City which was going to issue $20 million worth of bonds then I would say maybe the convention site needs to be named Evansville Convention Center. The idea now that ONB sees this as not a viable investment should give the mayor a pause, maybe Mr. Dunn after all wasn’t blowing smoke and his business acumen in hospitality and our city should have been taken more seriously.

My recommendation to Mr. Winnecke is to stop listening to consultants who doesn’t have our city’s best interests and listen to the business people in the city. Old National doesn’t see this as viable (based on their reaction) and neither did Dunn Hospitality, this means stop thinking of 245 room hotel as not for negotiation. If you are serious about getting the hotel built then the number of rooms needs to be trimmed down probably to 225 or even 200. Let us not waste anymore public funding and resources get this project moving.

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