Study looks at need for convention center hotel subsidies

The council heard a presentation Tuesday from Tom Morsch, managing director of The PFM Group, an investment advisory firm performing a hotel feasibility study for the city. With a new convention center planned for Oklahoma City in the coming years as part of MAPS 3, the council has discussed what tax incentives might be needed to help build a large hotel.

“The task is now to take the study and take a look at the convention center as a whole and determine if a subsidy would be needed,” Morsch told the council. “We will look at the various ways communities do subsidies for convention centers.”

The council approved another $65,000 for PFM’s services to perform a financial analysis of whether a new hotel would require public assistance. The city has contracted with PFM since 2010.

Morsch said the results of the continued study could determine that any number of public assistance options are necessary, including city-backed bonds, donation of land or tax incentives.

“We will be taking a look at all those different forms for you,” Morsch said.

The council has spent considerable time in recent months discussing public assistance for a new convention center hotel and many councilors said more study was needed.

“We’ve all talked around the fringes of this,” Ward 6 Councilwoman Meg Salyer said. “I don’t feel that I know enough to make that type of decision right now.”

Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid was critical of previous convention center studies and said it was difficult to determine the need for a new hotel since projected convention center traffic was not broken down by type of guests.

“[Projected] attendance at the convention center includes city meetings and Barons games,” Shadid said. “It would be helpful to breakdown that data by events?”

The results of the study are expected this summer, Morsch said, and the next step would be to talk with interested developers.

Ben Felder

Ben is an urban affairs reporter covering local government and education in Oklahoma City. He lives in OKC with his wife, Lori, and son, Satchel. Ben holds a masters in new media journalism from Full Sail University and is an OKC transplant from Kansas City, Mo. Twitter: @benfelder_okg

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