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Conference center coming to Vail

Geraldine Haldner

The conference center proposal, which will raise the town’s lodging tax by 1.5 percent and the sales tax by a half-percent, passed with 851 voters for the center and 807, or 44 less, against the center.”We sent out an update on the vote via e-mail to our data base of about 7,200 meeting planners,” said Frank Johnson Executive Director of the Vail Valley Tourism & Convention Bureau, which markets the Vail Valley to tourists and business travellers. “Just from that we got 137 e-mails back saying “please keep me posted, we are interested. That alone goes to show you that the voters made a wise choice.”Once fully operational, the center would generate as much as $34 million in additional income to town stores and hotels, supporters say. Additionally, a market analysis of the center, completed in September, estimates that as much as $10 million in new salaries will come from the conference center, through as many as 70,000 additional hotel room bookings per year.According to Vail Director of Community Development Russell Forrest, the town will be in charge of the project and the Vail Town Council will have to authorize issuing bonds against the increased taxes sometime next year because the additional taxes will be collected beginning Jan. 1 of 2003.Center proponent Stan Cope said he hopes the town will use some of the “conference center experts in our own lodging community” and form an advisory group to get the center built in less than two years.”It’s urgent. I hope we can have some sort of a community group together to oversee this and run with it,” he said, adding that it is his hope that shovels will hit the ground of the maintenance lot in West Lionshead as early as fall of 2003.Ralph Johnson, executive director of the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association, said Thursday he would consider bringing the 900 or so members of his organization back to Vail.”We had our last convention in Vail in 1999 and that was the last time because we, at that time, had outgrown the capacity of the existing facilities,” he said. “Our group has a desire to hold our convention in a mountain resort. Vail fits that criteria. It’s the kind of community where you have year-round activity, so when we show up in September we aren’t just a convention center surrounded by businesses with their doors shut.”Geraldine Haldner covers Vail, Minturn and Red Cliff. She can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 602, or at ghaldner@vaildaily.com.


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