The Evansville Convention and Visitors Bureau board announced Wednesday that the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns will not be holding their fall 2015 convention here.
ECVB Executive Director Bob Warren tells us the IACT convention would have brought at least 800 people into town. Since the new hotel will have less than 300 rooms, the loss of the convention will also impact other hotels in town.
Warren also said, "We're waiting for steel to come out of the ground so we can actively promote. If they're telling us it takes 18 months for construction, then we're in a position where we can't be selling anything inside of that 18 months."
He went on to say,"We've got to have that start date and without that start date, we don't have a completion date and without that completion date, we can't be selling."
Construction of the new convention hotel has been delayed because of a complaint filed with Hilton Worldwide by the Dunn Hospitality Group.
The new downtown hotel is supposed to be a Hilton Doubletree. Dunn is concerned, because he owns the Hilton Garden Inn on the city's east side, that a new Hilton so close to his hotel would hurt his business.
Hilton Worldwide will now assess whether there's enough room in the market for another Hilton franchise. It could take up to 40 more days for the hotel chain to make a decision.
If Hilton says the downtown hotel cannot bear its name, the process of constructing a hotel will take even longer.
A new franchise would have to be found for the hotel. According to the ECVB executive director, that would probably lead to a new design because different franchises have different design preferences.
Late Wednesday, Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke released this statement:
"The convention hotel project continues to move forward with the site and foundation package going to bid next week.
This Friday, I will be meeting with HCW to finalize details on the expanded parking garage to accommodate the medical education and research campus that will reside next to the hotel.
Regarding efforts to recruit convention business to Evansville, the Convention and Visitors Bureau staff continues to aggressively promote the new convention hotel and Old National Events Plaza, as well as other city facilities and lodging accommodations.
The Indiana Association of Cities and Towns annual convention remains the first convention booked at the new Downtown convention hotel.
However, as HCW awaits approval of their franchise agreement from Hilton, the city and IACT have agreed that the city will host the annual convention in 2016, rather than 2015 to ensure that the business stays committed to Evansville."
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