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Friday, July 18, 2008

Build it and they still won't come

When Metro builds the Convention Center Hotel and drags Portland further into fiscal calamity, they can't say they weren't warned. The astronomical air fares that are now blossoming due to the oil price crisis are already cutting into business travel, and they are going to put a serious hurt on the convention business.

But of course, nothing succeeds in Portland like expensive failure. Today the dupes or liars at the O have to pipe up with this choice tidbit of misinformation: "In the past seven months alone, the region has lost 32 conventions, and a potential economic windfall of $63 million, largely because we lack a headquarters hotel across from the convention center."

That one merits a BS alert. Rowe and Bhatia, did you fact-check those figures? Or did you just call Hank Ashforth's office and ask for some numbers?

Comments (25)

That number is likely true; I bet there were 32 conventions that passed up on Portland.

I doubt we would have won them all (or even most) with a hotel.

It's not the hotel, or the absence of it. It's the crappy air service (about to get worse), the long distance from the nation's population centers (never going to change), and the weather from November to April (unlikely to change any time soon).

The national convention business goes to New York, L.A., Chicago and the southern half of the country. No other city has done well with it, regardless of the hotel situation.

The first phase of the Convention Center was a halfway decent idea. Portland probably did need a regional convention facility. But everything since then has been a waste of money. It just doesn't pencil -- never has, never will. But Hoffman Construction wants the work, and Mr. Lloyd Center's throwing his considerable weight around, so all the ex-Neilies are committed to sneak it past the public somehow.

It's the crappy air service (about to get worse), the long distance from the nation's population centers (never going to change), and the weather from November to April (unlikely to change any time soon).

These criteria all apply to Seattle as well. Does anyone know how their convention center peforms?

Air service to Seattle is better than to Portland.

I think it's more likely that Hank Ashforth and Wayne Drinkward (Hoffman's CEO) wrote this editorial for The Oregonian. They want to ram the CC hotel project through the political hoops as fast as possible. I wouldn't be surprised if Metro were to hold its vote on the hotel next month rather than the fall.

I hear the Oregon convention center charges out-of-market rates which are significantly higher than surrounding convention centers like the one up in Tacoma. It is simply cheaper for groups to go elsewhere.

If that list of 32 conventions includes the Democratic National Convention, that one convention could easily account for a third or a half of the monetary total.

It seems that Portland is always included on the big list of 50+ cities invited to apply for the DNC, but we always don't apply or get rejected due to hotel capacity.

But here's a little not-so-secret: The convention wasn't coming to Portland anyway, whether or not we had one more hotel. Political considerations are much higher priority (which is why it's in Colorado this year.) Also, they need corporate sponsorship to make it happen - and we aren't a headquarters city.

If they're including the DNC in that total, they're being entirely disingenuous.

Kari has a good point. However, I think Denver was chosen some time ago.

Jack and others have good points, too re: airfares etc.

If you want to know why there aren't as many conventions as we hope, one need only envision the following conversation:

Convention planner: "So, what is there to do around the convention center?"

Portland: "Well, there's a Red Robin, a Denny's, the Lloyd Center Mall, and, and, and ... ."

Convention planner: "Anything else?"

Portland: * Click *

Right this minute, air service to Portland is actually pretty good: at least 4 non-stops daily to & from NY (not long ago there were none); daily non-stops to Tokyo, Amsterdam and Frankfurt; regular schedules to Guadalajara and Mexico City; non-stops to Boston, Dulles and Orlando, as well as Honolulu and Maui. Service to Coos Bay and Pendleton are under threat, and Jet Blue has announced reductions/suspensions of its transcontinental non-stop, but it's generally pretty good and the Port has figured out how (with bribes, I assume) to keep some of the carriers happy here. That said, I share the general conviction that Portland will never be a destination for conventions, with or without a subsidized hotel.

Never fear, with the influence of Sam-the-Scam, that hotel WILL be built. And then it will lose money, lose money and lose some more money. Oh, BTW, it will cost a hell of a lot more than they estimate too (but you already knew that). Just another rat hole to throw tax money down.

Oh, and for the 'things to do around the convention center' question - how could you forget that tourist magnet the TRAM (rimshot). Better than an E ticket ride at disneyland. I can't believe the sheep that live in this town.

I read the quotation to mean: "If we had a convention center hotel, each one of these 32 conventions would have come to Portland instead of wherever they went to."

It should be simple for Metro to list the 32 conventions and the cities they chose instead of Portland.

I'm sure we have lost some potential business because the convention center DOES need more adjacent hotel support... but it just doesn't need the city footing the bill.

As far as airfare goes, I had a Cancun trip booked for October via Mexicana Air... alas, they're due to discontinue service out of Portland in Sept. Things aren't going to get better anytime soon.

As far as airfare goes, I had a Cancun trip booked for October via Mexicana Air... alas, they're due to discontinue service out of Portland in Sept. Things aren't going to get better anytime soon.

Look on the bright side, your carbon footprint will be SO much smaller.

Go by streetcar!

Unless, of course, you go anyway

The print version had this sentence after the 32 conventions lost.

"Not all said "no" because we lack a headquarters hotel, yet in many cases, that was indeed the main reason".

I'll bet Portland was only on a list for the whole 32 conventions and some removed cities without a convention center hotel but that doesn't mean Portland would have been the ultimate choice.

But this is what these BSers do and the editorial board doesn't know squat about what convention would have actually come here had we a Hotel.

I'll wager not a one had preferred Portland if it had a Hotel.

Liars and the duped are ushering this forward.
I'm shocked!

I don't think entertainment and nightlife considerations are all that important in the selection of a location for a major political convention.

After all, in September the Republicans will descend on St. Paul for their week-long shindig. Much of the convention activities will be held in downtown St. Paul. That place is dead after 6:00.

Fortunately, there are no plans to build a convention center hotel there before the convention.

Perhaps it ought to be pointed out that the Oregonian editorial in question concluded by saying that the hotel should not be built unless it is sustainable. It did not say "build it and they will come." The editorial also noted the problems facing conferences these times.

But did it say what should have been said -- "There is no way this deal will ever be anything but a white elephant; it's time to kill it once and for all"?

No. The O will never say that, or anything like it.

It's like when Vera Katz shrieked "$15 million -- and it better be a picture postcard!" at the end of one of the crucial City Council meetings on the aerial tram [rim shot]. Everybody knows that the story's an obvious lie, but no one wants to tell the truth. It makes those lunches at the University Club too awkward.

Howard Rheingold wrote a book about cool words in foreign tongues that express concepts that require a bunch of words in English -- like


which is defined as "The truth everyone knows but no one says."

It's a word used by the Kiriwina people of Tobriand Island, or so he says.

How about "Welcome to the Hotel Mokita"?

Welcome to the Hotel Mokita
Such a lovely place (Such a lovely place)
Such a lovely face
Plenty of room at the Hotel Mokita
Any time of year (Any time of year)
You can find it here.

I would support public funds if the public can buy out the private investors (after it fails), for $1.00.

Then we could actually offer "low income families" some nice housing. And turnback/towel service too!

Are you nuts?
Perhaps it ought to be pointed out that the Oregonian editorial in question didn't bother to explain what numbers would make sense or how "sustainable" makes sense out of it. This is classic Oregonian support for another boondoggle without any basis what so every. Their insulting and lame pretense that they have some privileged information, insights and wisdom kills me.

"Sadly, Portland lacks the other half of what could be a "double green": marketing whammy".

Oh gag me.

"By rights, it would be open already"

This editorial is ALL about build it and they will come.

"more [hotels] are planned if this new hotel is built"

Their pitch spells price doesn't matter. Just gather together a public financing scheme, don't bother with other priorities or where the money draws from and call it a linchpin that "would build on Portland's green success story".

Where's the proof this hotel will boost convention business? Only in the minds of our boondoggle makers.

metro has an impressive track record on biting off more than we [taxpayers] can chew.
a somewhat smaller money matter coming up in Nov. [if the polls continue to look good] is the $125 million for the zoo.
seems to me that the current director has spent money since his arrival on new exhibits while letting sorely needed maintenance go neglected. the zoo has become a place of non stop tear down and rebuild with no peace for the animals.
maybe it's a zoo version of the winchester mystery house.
with the reduction of public area due to exhibits closed for remodel, one now crushes as many as 13,000 guests through the place in one day [8 july 08] .
you gotta' wonder if metro can grasp how numbers play out in the real world

Seems to me that if Portland really wanted to emphasize its "green" credentials, they'd get out of the convention biz altogether. After all, conventions can't be held without a massive "carbon footprint" - conventioneers fly in or drive in, they don't just magically appear.

Max is right.

What we need is a multi-story Yurt platform that is "off the grid" (only wind and solar power, no flush toilets, rainwater for drinking/showering). It will offer a "sustainable" lodging option for true eco-warriors who must attend an event at the Oregon Convention center.

Can't lose, baby.

"What we need is a multi-story Yurt platform"

Comedy Gold!

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