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Waco should continue seeking hotel proposals

Jan. 23, 2004

Staff editorial

It may have been a lofty proposal, but hotel developer Bill Hindman Jr.'s plan for a city-financed conference hotel in downtown Waco is ultimately a step in the right direction for the city's future.

The Waco City Council was due to vote Tuesday on Hindman's proposal that would have brought a 238-room, four-star Marriot hotel and convention center to the banks of the Brazos River. On Jan. 15, Hindman withdrew his proposal, due to lack of city support.

Hindman's proposal asked the city to become the hotel's owner by reinvesting hotel taxes paid to other area hotels, issuing tax-backed bonds and providing Hindman's developers with land and $2 million cash, the Waco Tribune-Herald reported Jan. 16.

Waco Mayor Linda Ethridge told the Tribune-Herald she worried Hindman's proposal put the city at too much risk when measuring the up-front costs with those of maintaining the hotel.

Although there are some risks, and some costly ones at that, to a city investing in such a project, The Lariat believes the proposed hotel and convention center is just what the downtown area needs to flourish.

The Waco Convention Center, while serving its intended purpose, often cannot host large conventions due to space issues and doesn't have enough room to host several at one time. A four-star hotel would not only provide additional rooms nearby, but would allow several conventions or large meetings to take place simultaneously. Such a hotel would also provide ballroom and meeting room options for formal events like dinners and weddings.

It's well known that Baylor parents book hotel rooms for events like Parents Weekend, Homecoming and graduation far in advance, some securing their spots for such occasions a year early. During such busy seasons, hotel rooms are hard to come by, forcing some parents to drive to Temple and Hillsboro for an empty bed.

Most likely, the hotel wouldn't hurt for business, with busy convention times and Baylor events picking up the slack for slow weeks. In addition, the extra guests staying in downtown Waco would bring steady business to the restaurants, bars and shops in the area, businesses that tend to see fewer customers when Baylor's not in session.

Overall, the addition of another hotel and the further development of the downtown area can only help the city's economy and reputation among travelers. The city should continue to pursue another, similar hotel project.