Does Salt Lake City need an anchor hotel for convention center?

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  • Fitz Murray, UT
    Aug. 23, 2012 3:32 p.m.

    There isn't a 1,000 room hotel in SLC right now. The Little America is the largest I could find with about 850 rooms. I don't believe SLC is ready for a new, large hotel. I am totally opposed to it being government funded.

    This is a more balanced story than that of the Trib a week or so ago. It was pointed out in that story that the Salt Palace is on full about 45% of the year. That leaves a big question as to demand. Comments from Sinclair, who owns the only 5 start hotel in SLC, and from Hospitality and Restaurant Groups indicate that there is not presently a market for a 1,000 room hotel.

    What is being proposed would reduce the current occupancy rate year round and hurt all the existing hotels. It would only be fully used a few times a year, making it financially unfeasible. Visit Salt Lake told us to expand it and they will come, but they have not, as represented by the sub50% use rate. And now they want us to believe that if we build a 1,000 room hotel, they will come. I don't buy it.

  • killpack Sandy, UT
    Aug. 22, 2012 10:17 a.m.

    Here's a better question, Hellooo. If Pragmatic knows of a way to build a hotel that is profitable, he doesn't need to tell the people at County, he needs to tell private investors. He'll get rich, the investors will get rich and convention goers will have a place to stay. Problem solved. Without the County. The County has too many other problems, like fixing the roads and schools and so forth. The last thing they need them to involve themselves in is hotelling.

  • Hellooo Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 21, 2012 8:11 p.m.

    Pragmatic could you explain further how a hotel larger than the Grand America, built at today's prices instead of those in 2000-2001 could charge lower room rates and still be profitable? Perhaps, you have a terrific new construction technology that allows this and would be helpful to County leaders.

  • SP Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 21, 2012 4:56 p.m.

    When I see convention goers walking several blocks and crossing large intersections near Pioneer Park to get to a hotel, I feel their pain.

    Government can help in a number of ways - allowing bars and restaurants to cluster in a small area and get enough licenses, working to reclaim the empty lot and ugly building across from the Salt Palace, and making the zoning work.

    Conventions benefit all of us in the city, but not enough for the government to directly finance a hotel. Let's keep government in the role of facilitating and stimulating a business environment, but not getting into business.

  • killpack Sandy, UT
    Aug. 21, 2012 2:35 p.m.

    It saddens me that no one wants to compete anymore, but instead lobby the government for protection from competition or lobby for subsidies from the hard working taxpayer, taken by force. Why don't those who love the conventions so much, and the benefits they bring, pay for their own convention hotel? Why do the taxpayers need to pay for it, if it is such a sure money maker? This to me sounds like another rip off in the same vein of the AIG/GM/Solyndra rip offs.

  • Pragmatic Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 21, 2012 1:24 p.m.

    From reading this is obvious that Earl Holding has done a tremendous job of lobbying his desires with key stakeholders for a very long time. Mr. Holding wants to be the empire and he doesn't want to be "smaller" than the largest hotel in town. It is as simple as that.

    A convention hotel is needed. The convention hotel will need to be less expensive than the Grand America and it must be close to the Convention Center. Meeting planners and attendees do not want to walk! Especially in cold and hot weather!!

    Also any tax increment (subsidy) that is used to finance the convention hotel will be earned by the convention hotel. There will not be any "robbing Peter to pay Paul". The project will benefit by what it can produce.

  • annewandering oakley, idaho
    Aug. 21, 2012 12:41 p.m.

    One problem with the attached grand hotel, and I am sure other cities with them have seen this, is that the conventioneers do not go out of the complex. This loses business to all the other area businesses. It's great for the convention center but every other business is going to suffer.
    Perhaps what is needed is more enticement to LEAVE the convention area and partake of other sights and businesses in the area.
    Sometimes big is not better. Entice more smaller conventions with more variety of experiences instead of several uber large conventions.

  • g33k Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 21, 2012 10:45 a.m.

    One large problem with the Grand America is the cost, its VERY expensive and with the current financial situation our country is in, we need good cheap convention space. For conventions that need convention space within a hotel, if you need a large amount of event rooms there is not much choice in downtown SLC.
    What we need is a convention hotel with space larger than the Grand America, smaller than the Salt palace, with affordable rates. I know we have the City Creek Marriott, Sheraton, Little America, but they are too small.
    Costs need to drop to bring in more conventions, all places are guilty of this, $300 for a single power drop at the Salt Palace is absurd.

  • Makid Kearns, UT
    Aug. 21, 2012 10:43 a.m.

    Utah_1, the problem is that the conventions don't need much more size right now, they need rooms.

    The large companies at these shows want an intimate setting to woo potential clients. That is why in other cities they use hotel suites. We are lacking rooms, not meeting space.

    There are many conventions that won't even look at a city if a single 1000+ room hotel is not located within 100 yards of a convention center.

    Everyone says government should stay out of it, let the private sector do what they do best. That statement means they will do what they can to maximize profit. Why would they want to risk their existing profits to boost revenues at other hotels as larger conventions come to town? Sure, they would make 25% to 50% more in profit but their competition will also see an increase in revenue from more room nights being sold. How dare they benefit from that other companies investment.

    If we don't get a 1000+ room hotel built, we will guarantee the loss of $25 Million a year just from Outdoor Retailers summer show. Will taxes go up to cover the loss? Sure they will.

  • FightingRED Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 21, 2012 10:18 a.m.

    Makid has hit the nail on the head. A member of my family attends an annual national convention for his industry with 1000+ participants. His professional association has been lobbying for the national convention for the last several years, but SLC always ends up getting passed over. Why? They prefer convention centers with the hotel attached. The bulk of their participants prefer to take an elevator ride and walk right into the convention. Not riding a shuttle, light rail, or anything else. The hotel has to be a part of the convention center, or they go elsewhere. They've picked places that are cities similar to SLC in size, but they have the perfect match of convention center and hotel.

    Based on the studies cited in the article, this isn't uncommon. While government shouldn't be directly paying for the hotel, a public-private partnership is going to be needed to spur the project along. Like Rational pointed out - look at the Olympics and their effect on SLC.

  • Utah_1 Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 21, 2012 9:53 a.m.

    " Giving free passes on Trax for convention attendees "

    You don't have to, it is in the free fair zone now. Anyone can go out the north doors of the Salt Palace and ride Trax free to the Little America or Grand America hotels.

    If you gave free Trax tickets, you could use the convention center at South Towne Center and the Rio Tinto Stadium. No one is using the areana across the street from the Salt Palace as part of the convention center.

    We also have convention centers in Davis and Utah Counties. It also looks like we are getting more meeting room space with a broadway theater. Crazy.

  • UtahBlueDevil Durham, NC
    Aug. 21, 2012 9:35 a.m.

    I think personally that if it is viable, private money could get the hotel built. This idea you have to have a "headquarters" hotel attached to the convention center is silly. But that said.....

    "SLC is forgetting the cardinal rule about free enterprise, government is not allowed to participate, its illegal because it ruptures private industry and the economy."

    Say what? Since when? From Development Zones like the local Research Triangle Park, to direct subsidies like paying for infrastructure upgrades to get businesses to locate in particular communities, to direct funding of basic research - carbon fibred aircraft - now being produced by Boeing, to medical research, they all have connections to both direct and indirect government support. This country was founded on government land grants. There hasn't been one second in the history of this country that meets the described requirements above. The technology boom of the 60's and 70's was largely a direct response to government intervention in research and development.

    I wish I knew where this line of thought originated because it is nowhere connected to fact what so ever. We have over 200 years of history that proves otherwise.

  • killpack Sandy, UT
    Aug. 21, 2012 9:33 a.m.

    Wow, I never thought Utah would go down this road of corruption that many other governing entities have and are currently traveling (especially the US Government). My advice to Utah (after all, I am a resident here): Learn from the mistakes of the den of thieves and corruption that is our current federal government! Don't take money from taxpayers, by force, who are struggling to pay their own bills, and give it away to special interests, like some hotel project! Did it work for AIG, GM or Solyndra? Of course not! It's pure corruption! Don't stoop to that level, Utah! Geez, I thought we were better than this.

  • Rational Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 21, 2012 8:58 a.m.

    "Ensign said that the total estimated cost for such a project would be in the $300 million range. He said providing such significant financial support for a convention center hotel would be unfair to other hoteliers that built and upgraded their properties with no public funding."

    Let's be accurate. EVERY hotel in Utah benefitted greatly from the millions of public dollars spent on the Olympics. The Grand opened just in time for the Olympics, and charged exorbitant rates during that time, allowing them to quickly recoup much of their initial investment, greatly increasing their IRR and significantly reducing their payback period.

    No public funding, no Olympics. No Olympics, no Grand America Hotel.

  • Makid Kearns, UT
    Aug. 21, 2012 8:50 a.m.

    The problem with the Little and Grand Americas is that they are so far away from the convention center. Giving free passes on Trax for convention attendees will not do anything to increase conventions coming to Salt Lake.

    We are being passed up by conventions ranging from medium to large because of a lack of a 1000+ room hotel directly connected to or across the street from the convention center.

    Conventions as a whole like to have suites in hotels to wine, dine and schmooze potential clients. Who will walk 5 blocks or take Trax for 10 minutes to a presentation room?

    I've been to very large conventions, 75,000+ people conventions. All large companies each had dozens of suites, to give private demonstrations to potential new clients. The show floor is there just to spread their name. The actual deals are made in the suites.

    We don't come close to offering that in Salt Lake but the convention industry is asking for it. They have been asking for 10 years now. What will it take before we act? Losing $40 to $50 million or more yearly in revenue? Who will cover that? Those against the hotel?

    Aug. 21, 2012 8:44 a.m.

    Anchors are for ships at sea. I mean, I've heard of the shifting plates of the earth's crust, but I think using anchors for buildings is ridiculous! :)

  • Penguin Inc. Salt Lake City, Utah
    Aug. 21, 2012 8:43 a.m.

    Who needs an anchor hotel when we live nowhere near the sea?

  • Utah_1 Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 21, 2012 8:31 a.m.

    A new County Hotel is being looked at even though it could cause the Grand America and others to go under?. I have read the reports sent to the Convention Center about the proposed County Hotel. It was pretty obvious that this connection (all the hotels and the convention center) doesn't work and that the hotels as a whole think the County is competing with them instead of working with them.

    I would like to see the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau work with the existing hotel owners instead of trying to compete with them. They almost ignore both the Little America and Grand America Hotel and that you can ride TRAX free from the north convention center exit to those hotels.

    The hotels near the Salt Palace Convention Center should be able to market their individual hotel and the fact that they have all the convention and meeting room space that someone could want with the convention center. The convention center should be able to market with the surrounding hotels to utilize their meeting rooms and convention space if more space is needed.

  • Makid Kearns, UT
    Aug. 21, 2012 8:26 a.m.

    How do you maximize your returns?

    SL County built the Salt Palace to increase tourism. They expanded it because of demand. We haven't had a large hotel added since the Grand America but at the same time, we have had dozens and dozens of smaller hotels pop-up around the county due to increased demand.

    Everyone says private developers will build it if there is a need. There has been a need for years. Sinclair properties has been lobbying against it because they want more business to their expensive Grand America.

    The problem of a single developer or a group building a hotel is the competing interests. Land Bankers want high revenue, this cuts down on any potential profits making subsidies the only way a developer can make a profit.

    So either we subsidize or we force land bankers to sell lower than they want...You pick.

  • DN Subscriber Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Aug. 21, 2012 8:08 a.m.

    Not a dime of taxpayer money should go for construction of a new hotel, grocery store, car dealership, department store, gas station, pawn shop or Wal-Mart.

    All these "experts" who claim that an "anchor hotel" is such a good deal are welcom to pool their money and form a company and build one, just like the Marriott, Raddison, Hilton, and Grand America owners did.

    Otherwise, the "experts" just want to do the same thing as taking our tax dollars and running off to Las Vegas to see if they can make a good bet with our money. But, we never get any of the winnings if they are (very seldom) correct in their gambles.

    Government and taxpayers need to stick to building fire and police stations, prisons, and city halls. But, even those should be open to private competition.

  • My2Cents Taylorsville, UT
    Aug. 21, 2012 3:40 a.m.

    No, and not one funded by taxpayers. Utah or should I say SLC is forgetting the cardinal rule about free enterprise, government is not allowed to participate, its illegal because it ruptures private industry and the economy.

    If an anchor hotel was feasible and needed to compete with all the other hotels I think there are plenty of company's that would have built one already. Utah's idea is to put another tax burden on all cities and state government venues to please its own decline demise as a destination city. SLC still doesn't get it, the economy is sour, conventions are few and Utah is a 3r rate city of beggars and scavengers and criminals in and out of government. Downsize government, bring down costs and taxes and the rest will take care of itself and stay out of free enterprise and speculative macro management of private industry.

    I know SLC is just thinking of itself and now that the city creek projects is becoming another white elephant for the Utah taxpayers they continent to strip the poverty and over taxed citizens of more money to fund their follies.

  • Florwood American Fork, UT
    Aug. 20, 2012 11:04 p.m.

    Would have been nice to get comments from the existing hotels next to the Salt Palace, like the Marriott and Radisson...

  • Stenar Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 20, 2012 10:47 p.m.

    Clint Ensign of Sinclair, representing the Little and Grand America hotels, is clearly biased against a convention hotel and is exaggerating and overestimating costs to dissuade the public from supporting a convention hotel.
    We shouldn't hold Salt Lake City back just because Earl Holding built his hotels in the wrong location.