Big KC hotel would come with big price tag
The Kansas City Star
Kansas City’s revived downtown has more residents and nightlife than it’s had in decades. The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts continues to draw national plaudits. In two years, streetcars are expected to be rolling down Main Street.
Yet many supporters of downtown say it is still missing something: a 1,000-room hotel that could help draw extra conventions and visitors.
In recent weeks Mayor Sly James has begun talking a bit more about resuscitating efforts to build such a structure.
Fine idea. But whose money is going to do that?
If a private developer wanted to invest, say, $300 million into such a deal, the city would embrace that effort with open arms. After all, the city has been pursuing a large, convention-style hotel for the better part of a decade.
But as city officials have found, hotel developers here and in other cities are most comfortable when they can get a large serving of public assistance to make their projects possible. Kansas City is familiar with that arrangement; taxpayers already help subsidize several hotels around town.
Still, the size of the incentives that would be needed to make a 1,000-room hotel possible have given even elected officials pause. The biggest hurdle is figuring out whether such a large subsidy would really make sense, given the uncertainty of how much in extra convention traffic a new hotel might create vs. the risk of draining customers away from existing hotels.
James needs to offer guidance for where the city goes from here. A special committee once again could try to bring a project across the finish line. One goal should be firm: Any new hotel should be built with a large infusion of private funds and a smaller, reasonably sized public subsidy.