EVANSVILLE, Ind. – The Vanderburgh County Council approved $2 million in funding Wednesday for a proposed 12-story hotel and apartment tower in downtown Evansville that local officials consider critical to boosting the city’s convention business.
The council approved the Convention & Visitors Bureau’s request for $2 million in local innkeeper tax funds for the project a day after the county commissioners voted Tuesday night to contribute $1.5 million for improvements at the Evansville Auditorium and Convention Centre, also known as The Centre.
The $74 million project in southern Indiana would include a 253-room hotel, a parking garage and sky bridges to link it to Centre and to Ford Center, a sports arena. The developer would pay for the apartment tower.
The innkeeper tax funds will go toward improvements to The Centre and the parking garage and sky bridges, the Evansville Courier & Press reported (http://bit.ly/1eHzZOT ).
County officials said they support the hotel project because it would bring more conventions to the county-owned Centre.
Since the former convention hotel, the Executive Inn, closed in 2009, convention organizers have stopped using The Centre, said Darren Stearns, its general manager.
Large “conventions are not used to being bused (to the convention centre) from all over the city,” Stearns said. “The organizers look for areas where the hotel is right next door.”
The Centre has operated on a roughly $450,000 deficit each year since the Executive Inn closed. The Centre operated on a deficit even when the Executive Inn was open, but the deficit was smaller, Stearns said.
“Most convention centres are not revenue generators,” Stearns said. “The conventions bring in people from outside the city who rent hotel rooms, spend money in restaurants, visit local attractions. It’s indirect spending.”
The county actions came after the Evansville City Council decided Monday night to wait a week before voting on Mayor Lloyd Winnecke’s plan to cut the city’s subsidy to $20 million from $37.5 million.
Winnecke said private investors led by Old National Bank have committed $11.5 million, along with cuts made to the project, to reduce the city’s share.
Information from: Evansville Courier & Press, http://www.courierpress.com