Why I’m voting no | VailDaily.com

Why I’m voting no

Merv LapinSpecial to the Daily

I am opposed to the proposed conference center ballot issue for the following reasons:1) Spending $64 million on construction of the facility in order to lose $1 to 1.5 million per year doesn’t make sense to me. The true cost of the building, including interest of about $3.2 million per year, is $112 million. Because of an inadequate marketing budget, I believe the loss will exceed $2 million per year. Any loss will ultimately fall on the town of Vail coffers to make up.The architect cannot be trusted. The architect promised that his design could be built for $40 million. The original design has changed to a simpler and unattractive design that now costs more. Plus, why would you want to build at the top of the market?2) There is no need for the project, as Vail’s economy has strengthened. Since we began looking at the need several years ago, $1 billion of additional building is being constructed – including three major hotels. This is hardly a sign that sales taxes will not improve substantially.3) 85 percent of the conference business (groups under 700) can be handled by existing hotels. The other 15 percent (groups from 700 to 2,000) is the most competitively fought for and usually the most price-sensitive business.4) The conference center will usually only be rented when the hotels’ conference rooms are already booked. The center will be an overflow facility. We were told by the event planners that they like to book the hotel rooms, food, and conference facilities with one entity. This is usually the hotels. Why would the hotels book the conference center if they have the facilities on site?5) Our lodging tax will be 13.3 percent. The only higher tax will be the city of Denver. None of our ski resort competitors are this high. We were told by the event planners that the cost of the lodging tax is a factor in groups deciding where they will go.6) The facility will compete with other restaurants; $2.6 million of the $3.8 million of the conference center’s direct revenue is in food services. 7) Smaller lodges will become uncompetitive with lodges outside of Vail that will not be charging the 13.3 percent lodging tax. Smaller lodges will not see the benefits of the center unless the larger hotels are full.For the above reasons, I am voting NO on the conference center.Merv Lapin served for eight years on the Vail Town Council, was a mayor pro tem, and is a member of the Conference Center Advisory Committee. Previously he served as chairman of the Vail Planning Commission and on the Eagle County Planning Commission. He is president of Vail Securities Investment Inc., an investment banking firm.Vail, Colorado

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