Thursday, October 08, 2009

CM LaLonde Looks forward to Collaborating with Mayor Dean on Convention Center, Promises Community Meeting

A portion of CM Kristine LaLonde's October 7 e-newsletter to District 18:
A new convention center could help to further revitalize downtown and act as an economic driver for our city. Nashville is a great destination for tourists and conventioneers, and I support efforts to maximize our tourism dollars. That said, many questions need to be answered before the Council can make an informed vote on the convention center. I have shared five core questions with the Mayor’s office and will pursue concrete and clear answers to these questions before deciding my vote:
  1. What is the estimated yearly budget for both the debt obligation and the operating expenses of the proposed center and hotel? What is the bottom line yearly bill? What is the basis for this estimate?
  2. What is the current annual revenue from the dedicated revenue streams that are projected to pay for the new convention center and hotel? The dedicated revenue stream is defined as the following: “a portion of the existing hotel/motel tax; an increase in the hotel/motel tax; a hotel room-night charge; a rental car tax increase; and an airport ground transportation fee. Once the new center is up and running, two additional revenue sources will be put in place: redirection of some taxes inside a newly created Tourism Development Zone and taxes collected on the convention center campus itself.”
  3. How much business, and thus tax revenue, will need to be generated to raise the revenue to the amount necessary to cover the yearly budget for the center? How does this projection translate into real numbers in terms of hotel room occupancy, rental car use, and ground transportation use? How many more people will the Music City Center need to attract and how much money will they need to spend in order for the center to sufficiently raise the revenue stream?
  4. What is our business plan forecast based upon? How are we determining a realistic projection of how much new business the Music City Center can generate? What cities’ convention centers are we using as our sources of comparison? How are we taking into consideration the current economy and projections regarding trend-lines in business and civic convention travel?
  5. What is our contingency plan if our projections prove wrong—or the economy further worsens—and the dedicated revenue streams cannot meet our debt obligations and/or our operating expenses? Where will the money come from?
....Many of the questions I pose cannot be answered until after key documents and reports are finalized. I have been heartened by the welcoming response I have received by the Office of the Mayor in regards to my questions and concerns and look forward to working with them collaboratively.

I want to know what you think of the proposed center. In the coming weeks, neighboring council members and I will hold at least one community meeting regarding the proposed center. I will keep you informed of this and other opportunities to discuss the issues involved.

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