Convention center still makes sense

Filed under: Opinion |

The third study about the feasibility of a convention center and hotel in downtown Colorado Springs has been finished and guess what: It looks like we paid $58,000 to find out what we already knew – building a convention center complex makes sense.

The Strategic Advisory Group concluded that the feasibility studies conducted by HVS International were “conducted with sound methodology and a high degree of skill.” SAG also concurred that “the convention center and hotel building program recommendations of HVS are appropriate for Colorado Springs” and that “a Colorado Springs convention center could take market share from competitive destinations/facilities elsewhere in America.”

SAG’s projections about the convention center’s operating deficit, total hotel room nights generated, and occupancy and net operating income did differ from the HVS figures. SAG projects a higher operating deficit, fewer room nights and lower occupancy and net operating income. But let’s be realistic. No two studies are going to come up with the exact same numbers. And if another study is done, we’ll bet you a shiny nickel that the numbers are different from both SAG and HVS.

The key finding was that the HVS study wasn’t flawed or skewed, as the anti-convention center critics had claimed. And while those critics will likely trash the SAG study and cherry pick portions of it to cast a convention center in the least favorable light, they can’t keep claiming in good conscience that the idea isn’t worth merit. And they can’t continue to claim that they aren’t simply looking out for themselves.

Nobody can guarantee the success of the convention center, or for that matter any other project. But how much time and how much money do we have to waste because a vocal minority is putting its own self interests above those of the community as a whole? How many more studies do we have to do before everybody is happy? None. Because no matter how many studies are done and no matter how much money is spent, it’s an absolute guarantee that not everyone is going to be happy.

What we need is foresight and leadership. And if our elected leaders don’t have the gumption or the vision to look beyond their next election campaign, then they need to vote the convention center down and be done with it.

Building a convention center would be a risk, but as with any risk there also is the possibility of a substantial reward. HVS and SAG have each concluded that a downtown convention center isn’t the worst idea since Sony decided that consumers would flock to the Betamax. The time has come to put up or shut up.

Colorado Springs can either look to and build for the future, or it can cower to a few powerful, yet ultimately self-serving and self-interested parties.

Teddy Roosevelt said that it is better to dare greatly and fail than to do nothing. Here’s hoping that the leadership and foresight exist in our community to grasp the opportunity for a better and more prosperous future for us all. Or we can do nothing and hope that growth and prosperity spring from indecision and indecisiveness.

Is it really that difficult of a choice?