CVB contributing funds to proposed hotel, vote far from unanimou - Tri-State News, Weather & Sports

CVB contributing funds to proposed hotel, vote far from unanimous

Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke has another partner in the downtown convention hotel project. 

The Evansville Convention and Visitors Bureau plans to contribute $2 million.

The proposed hotel project has a price tag of about $76 million, $37.5 of which would come from the City of Evansville.

The CVB approved $2 million to help the city that would be paid over a 10 year period. But approving that money was far from a unanimous vote on Wednesday.

"Their buy-in and their investment in this project means a lot because we're all on the same team trying to promote Evansville and bring more conventions to the City," said Steve Schaefer, Winnecke administration chief of staff.

There's no question bringing more conventions here is something the CVB wants to see.

"We need a convention hotel in Evansville and this is the right move," said John Montrastelle, the CVB Board President. 

But on Wednesday morning, not everyone was on board with a decision to contribute $2 million of innkeeper's tax money to the convention hotel project.

"I don't really feel like I was prepared to vote. Having felt that, I really couldn't vote yes," said Kevin Stahl, board member and general manager of the Clarion Inn. 

Stahl is one of three local hoteliers on the CVB board. All three voted against approving the funding.

Stahl says they had just a few days to consider this request from the Evansville Redevelopment Commission asking for $2 million "in support of the upgrades to The Centre and the development of auxiliary facilities serving The Centre and Ford Center."

"It seems like while certainly legal to use tourism capital development funds to do things that directly benefit the developer or the hotelier. Philosophically, I have a problem with that," said Ward Shaw, a CVB Board Member and  General Manager of Tropicana Evansville. 

Joe Langerak, attorney for the Evansville Hotel Lodging Association, unsuccessfully asked the board to delay a vote, but moving forward he says they want the project to succeed.

"More heads in beds is what everyone wants. We want tourism in Evansville to increase and what we'll do is we'll continue to work with City Council to feed them the information that they might need and offer our analysis because of our expertise," Langerak said.

This agreement to invest $2 million, 14 News is told, is dependant on city council approving the project. 

Mayor Winnecke plans to seek final approval from council on September 9.

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