Tonight’s discussions about the proposed hotel at Bridge View Center are likely the most important it has had. This is a make-or-break moment for the proposal.
Members of the city council have said they need more answers before moving ahead. That’s an entirely reasonable position to take, and it appears from documents provided to the council that additional information will be forthcoming. Whether it’s enough to satisfy the council, we can’t yet say.
That we’re at this point should be a cautionary sign for the city. There is a need to be careful with how much information is made public with projects, especially in the early stages. But there’s a point at which secrecy becomes self-defeating, and this plan came dangerously close to that.
We’re inclined to take the council members at their words at this point. They’ve said their questions are based not on opposition to the proposal’s core idea, but on unresolved questions they have had trouble getting answered. It’s a common sense position, especially in light of the money involved.
There’s another group that should be paying close attention, though, and it hasn’t been mentioned much. VenuWorks, the company that runs Bridge View for the city, needs to be planning ahead.
Mayor Tom Lazio made an important point during the recording of the Courier’s podcast last week, though. He said if a hotel is built, it’s critical that Bridge View Center not have down seasons. It will not be able to afford having long lapses in events.
Lazio is right. Now, the hotel itself could help somewhat on that issue. The center is probably somewhat under-utilized in terms of actual conventions due to the lack of adjacent hotel space. A hotel likely puts Bridge View in play for additional events by itself.
But underlying the concern is that Bridge View has had periods during which it was feast-or-famine, with a handful of big events punctuating long lulls. If that’s the pattern after a hotel is in place, it becomes difficult to see how things will work out.
Bridge View has done better on that front in recent months. Landing Mannheim Steamroller and the Oak Ridge Boys during the holiday season were both coups. The upcoming schedule is promising. Red Green’s visit later this month is a repeat of a tour that previously drew strong crowds. Clint Black’s April 25 concern brings a major name with decades of music and fans.
It’s that kind of consistency that the city will need, and it will need to be over the course of years rather than a couple months. Will it be a challenge? Definitely. But it needs to be done.
First comes tonight, though. First comes the opportunity to put council members’ minds at ease. Those involved in the project must, if they haven’t already, realize that they cannot simply expect the council to blindly agree. This is a sales job, and they must provide enough information to close the sale with the people who hold the purse.
We look forward to hearing what some of the answers are.