Price tag big question for proposed convention hotel - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

Price tag big question for proposed convention hotel

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There are both concerns and praise for a proposed convention hotel in downtown Evansville.

It was a packed house with standing room only in the hallway Monday night as Evansville's City Council heard details about the project. 

There are questions about the price tag and whether the potential for a downtown medical school should play into the decision.

If one thing is clear, many want a convention hotel, but some aren't sure how much the city should have to pay for it.

A presentation to Evansville's City Council quickly turned into a game of numbers.

"What I'm puzzled about, you're only assessing the hotel at $20 million,"Council member John Friend said.  

Developers from HCW detailed the $73 million downtown convention hotel project. Half of which would be paid for by public funds.

"It's a $70 million project and the city is a partner in just over 50 percent and HCW just under that. It's a strong public/private partnership," Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke said.  

"When you have a convention center, it's hard not to have a hotel. But it's like the question, we all need an automobile, but the question is, do we need a Mercedes or do we need a Buick?" Friend said.  

The public packed the Civic Center, many taking the podium to praise the project, dubbing this the next step in creating economic growth downtown.

"I can tell you I have a strong belief that downtown Evansville was, is, and always will be worth the effort," a speaker said.

"I just think we're making great strides and the city has a whole lot of potential," said Jerome Stewart, who is a small business owner.

"We really need to keep on going with this and get the hotel built and get the medical center built downtown also," said Tom Vukovich, a union supporter.

Mayor Lloyd Winnecke told the council funding for a proposed Indiana University Medical Center could come in 2015.

But that the hotel project must be the city's first priority.

"Yes, we have the financial capacity to do both and I think Evansville's time is now. I think now is the time to be bold," Mayor Winnecke said.

Winnecke says a request for funding could come in a couple months. If approved, groundbreaking could come in late summer, early fall.

The project slated to take about 18 months to complete.

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