Posted: May 30, 2013 6:31 PM by Jamie Leary - KBZK News
Updated: May 31, 2013 10:41 AM
BOZEMAN - For more than 30 years, plans have been discussed about building a convention center in Bozeman. Now, a Bozeman group is making a fresh push.
The proposed convention center is approximately 42,000 square feet, with 16,000 planned for the main ballroom, which would hold up to 1,000 people.
While officials say the revenue from the proposed project is hard to gauge, it would probably generate a quarter of a million dollars for hotels alone. Getting to that point could take a while, which would mean operating in the red.
"What we're looking at right now is we're predicting that within the first five years it will not make money, but people don't look at the opposite side, what if you don't have one?" asked Daryl Schliem, executive director of the Tourism Business Improvement District.
Local business people see a need for the project.
"We're limited," said Tim Kuhlman, general manager of Holiday Inn. "The largest convention we can host is 300. A lot of out-of-state conventions require a space for 600 or 800 and there's not a place in Bozeman you can do that."
To offset operating costs, one proposal would add an extra fee for guests at local hotels.
"So currently the TBID has a $1 assessment for every one night stay," said Kuhlman. "We would increase that to $4 and really, I've never had anyone complain about the $1. When you travel to cities like New York or Chicago or Los Angles, you're paying a $15 assessment every night."
Another way to make ends meet is to design a facility that would house a number of businesses under one roof.
"If we could have a one-stop shop that included a chamber director CEO, a Prospera CEO that does all the analysis and funding, a funding corporation like Montana community development all under one roof, it's a right step for us to look at to make it easier and convenient for our customers that come here," Schliem pointed out.
The Tourism Business Improvement District or TBID completed a feasibility study for a convention center. It showed the cost would be $25 million to build and $1.3 million per year to operate.
The TBID hopes by the fifth year the convention center would have approximately 15 conventions annually.
"I think we wanna see the city grow, we want it to be a premier city within Montana and this is the one piece of the puzzle that we're missing," said Kuhlman. "A great convention center- all the other cities have this and if you wanna be a player on a grand scale and win and have the greatest city in Montana this is something we need."
City officials have not seen the proposal yet, but Bozeman City Manager Chris Kukulski tells us from what he has heard, it's one he could support.