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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 20, 2012 7:49 AM. The previous post in this blog was Another word falls victim to PC. The next post in this blog is Streetcar whiners, and the newspaper that loves them. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Friday, January 20, 2012

The ultimate zombie

The Portland convention center hotel scam is back. The stinker convention center, which as voters wisely sensed should never have been expanded, wasn't bad enough. With a boondoggle hotel, suddenly it will break even after years of financially devastating losses.

Uh huh.

The Oregon Convention Center posted an operating loss of $10 million on revenue of $19 million. That compares to an $8.3 million loss on $16.6 million in revenue the prior year. The convention center hosted 469 events attended by 570,400 people. The total economic benefit to hotels, restaurants and other businesses is calculated at $449.6 million and 4,260 jobs. Multnomah County, home to the convention center, is the largest beneficiary, garnering $343.6 million in spending and 3,260 jobs. Clackamas County benefited from $17.1 million in spending and 430 jobs. Washington County benefited from $60.4 million and 570 jobs. Convention center-related activities generated nearly $15.5 million in tax revenue for local, regional and state government in the form of income taxes, lodging taxes and corporate taxes.

Sure. Let's all send a thank you note to Hoffman Construction. Thank you for the convention center! It's such a big part of why Portland's doing so well these days. And thank you, Vera, for everything -- especially Sam Adams.

Of course, the lobotomized "journalists" in town play right along:

Today, construction costs are down by 10 percent and interest rates on bonds are down 1 to 1.5 points. And hotel operators are on the prowl for projects. Metro reported that it has been contacted by numerous organizations that want to enter the Portland market, making it more likely that a private developer, not taxpayers, could shoulder the cost.

The controversial hotel project is considered a critical amenity for the Oregon Convention Center, which reportedly loses business because it can’t provide the large blocks of rooms organizers demand. Elisa Dozono, a MERC commissioner, said a legal group she belongs to pitched Portland for its 2013 convention but lost to Kansas City because Portland couldn’t muster 400 rooms near the convention center.

The number of hotel opponents interviewed for that "article"? Let's see... that'd be zero.

There's only one way that hotel will ever be built, folks, and that's on the backs of taxpayers. If it made sense financially, private money would have done it a long time ago.

Maybe it's time for the Clackistani rebels, who are successfully battling "urban renewal" malarkey in their neck of the woods, to come up with some candidates for the Metro council who can put a stop to this kind of theft once and for all. We'd vote for any candidate who said "No convention center hotel, ever."

And Tom Hughes? You're on notice, dude.

Comments (27)

The "estimated" economic impact of all the conventioneer spending is subject to MASSIVE manipulation...It assumes none of those people would have come to Portland, and none of those meetings would have been held here, absent the Convention Center.

In fact, our convention center attracts about as many national gatherings as PDX attracts international flights (hardly any). Adding a single hotel with less than a thousand beds won't change a thing.

It ia a regional exposition center and hosts metro/local area gatherings that need bigger rooms (at a much cheaper rate) than the biggest downtown hotels can offer. Car shows, home improvement and landscaping, bridal fashions...VERY FEW CONVENTIONS.

The Clackistani rebels which is authentic grassroots and has no party, ideological or political agenda affiliation at all are proving that the voting public can do anything they want and there is nothing Metro et al can do to stop them.

It's just that simple and fantastic.

This last cycle where the Clackistani's defeated the entire establishment by 70% included Tom Hughes calling out their region wide cronies to help crush the rebellion.
How'd that work out for ya Tom?

I'm certain his "people" visit here regularly to check on how the movement is being received and growing.

Occasionally one of their misguided minions or actual bureaucrats from a tax funded office posts another dose of their public deceit.
But so many people have heard it all and noticed the vast contrast between their rhetoric and actual results they are easily rebuked.

So yes the Clackistani movement is exactly the kind of public uprising that will stop
this hotel scam.

I'd predict 2012 will be Armageddon for the establishment region wide.
And all of the Tom Hugheses will be shamed and shunned for being on the wrong side of history.

This Bojack guy deserves a lot of thanks.
Maybe the Mrs. and his girls even moreso for putting up with him. :)

"And hotel operators are on the prowl for projects. Metro reported that it has been contacted by numerous organizations that want to enter the Portland market, making it more likely that a private developer, not taxpayers, could shoulder the cost. "

Great!! Then let the private developers do what they do privately, DEVELOP without any public financing. This must be a no brainer for these private developers!

I had hopes for Hughes, but he's proven himself to be the same old same old.

"The Oregon Convention Center posted an operating loss of $10 million on revenue of $19 million. That compares to an $8.3 million loss on $16.6 million in revenue the prior year."

Now that's good news!!!

Let the bloviation continue apace.

Raze MC and replace it with a mega casino, all revenues derived from casino operations dedicated education in the state. Bring in boxing, MMA, and book the best entertainment acts that can be found. Put that in place and private investors will jump at the opportunity to build and operate a hotel there too.

Sigh. Flashbacks to the same arguments being used here in Dallas, as to why we needed a city-financed hotel for our own convention center. Hell, we have it worse, because we also have three other big convention centers (in Arlington, Irving, and Fort Worth) that are all much better and more centrally located than Dallas's.

The question that everyone should be asking, with no snarkiness and nothing but honesty, is "Exactly WHY would anybody hold a convention in Portland, considering some of the options, in the first place?" I'm not being negative: I'm being serious. Atlanta, for instance, has let its downtown decay to the point where attendees of the big Cedia electronics show are talking about skipping out this year. Considering that downtown Portland is starting to resemble the first five minutes of George Romero's "Day of the Dead" these days, ask yourself legitimately and honestly "What do we have that would make out-of-town attendees, particularly ones with money, come to Portland instead of Las Vegas or San Diego?"

In Texas too?
Wonder how many other cities are now onto
"We need a convention center hotel" - guess the "stadium" need avenue has - already been taken care of.
What next?

Gawd, this thing is so damn delusional. Portland is not going to be a destination for conventions because it is too cold and rainy and it's too far from the rest of the country. A Convention Center Hotel is not going to change that. Tradeshows and conferences are like college football bowl games - they are held in warm places in the winter so people who live in cold places are more likely to attend.

I'd love to see the figures for the Expo Center which is a less expensive and more versatile venue that can handle rougher or dirtier events with great aplomb than the Convention Center. There's a reason WIRFs enormous collectors show and the Rose City dog show cluster prefer the Expo to the Convention Center.

In addition to having as many hotels close at hand as CC in the Lloyd District, parking is much easier near the Expo.

CC on the MAX line? Surprise, so is the Expo Center so no advantage there.

What Robert Collins said, above. And I'm on board for a Clackistani expansion team.

I dearly love Portland, but there comes a time when you have to face facts. If you have a son who is 5'4" and can't throw, you're doing him no favors by telling him that he should try out for quarterback on his high school football team. Portland, lovable as it may be, is simply not a convention city. Our convention center is located far away from downtown, our airport is not a hub, and the weather is not very good. We have to face facts. It's great that we can attract some decent conventions from time to time, but please let's stop pretending that if we add 1,000 rooms next to it that everyone's going to be booking their next convention in Portland, Not gonna happen.

I have a much, much, much better idea.

I hear that Multnomah County is unhappy with the Courthouse. I hear that the City of Portland is unhappy with the Portland Building. And I hear that folks want to move the Main Post Office out of 9th and Broadway.

I also hear that we have a really, really, REALLY huge building, that is iconic, in an area hemmed in by roads and freeways, but is close to the MAX line, has ample warehouse and parking space, lots of open floor plans, and is an iconic structure.

May I propose: Moving the Portland Building, the County Courthouse, and the Post Office to...wait for it...the Convention Center!

(Plus, it's already LEED Gold certified, so it would also function as the Sustainability Center - at no additional cost!)

Then...the Postal Service could sell off its downtown property...the Courthouse could be turned into another boutique hotel that is so much in demand in Portland, and the Portland Building can be turned over to some architect that'll also turn it into a hotel, or a design firm, or an ad agency...something, anything. It'll return all those properties back to property-tax paying entities. And the Convention Center will finally be a "vibrant" facility with people coming and going (at least 8-5 Monday-Friday).

Plus, it'll save commuting trips between City, County and Metro staffers - they can just walk across the street - no more driving government vehicles 20 blocks!

City Hall would benefit as it moves the seat of government closer and more accessible to the people. More offices could be placed in one location - eliminating different departments spread out all over downtown. There's a lot more parking at the Convention Center site. And...get this...think of all the jobs that'll be created in retrofitting the Convention Center as office space!

Erik, that is too funny! And, way, way too rational.

My thinking was go ahead and build the hotel - then, when it goes belly up and Metro or the City gets to take it over, we would have instant housing for the homeless available.

While umpire's idea is sooooo Portland, pdxjim is on the right track believing private money is available for hotel construction in Portland. Didn't I just read that Homer Williams is going to build a hotel in the Pearl District without (wait for it) public funding because the demand was there? Just shows what can happen if there is a profit to be made.

That is quite the proposal Erik.
Perhaps the Courthouse could be turned into a "boutique" meeting, convention center since as others mentioned there is not much need for a large one. This could become a more popular place to visitors to come to for a convention. Nice hotels are already in place nearby, theater and restaurants, and shops are much more accessible than the current convention location.

If Metro can be precise enough to announce an almost exact number on "total economic benefit," let those businesses who are getting the benefit pay for the convention center hotel.

Years ago I was at a convention (pre-Kartina New Orleans that August) that I used to attend on a fairly frequent basis. And by happenstance one night, I ended up having dinner with two guys on the board of the group that ran the conference.

And I asked why not Portland. The reason was and will always be that the OLCC requires drinks at conventions to be served (and charged by the glass). The convention hotels in New Orleans could charge by the bottle and set-ups consumed. And given that this convention (in those days) included nightly booze in the convention fees, it did not make sense to deal with any locale that was not friendly to cheap drinks.

There are probably other things that make it an unfriendly city for conventions but that was something that totally ruled PDX out for this convention (usually 5000 plus attendees back then).

LucsAdvo,

That's interesting, does the OLCC rule only apply to conventions? I know I have been to a number of private functions that had a hosted bar. Yes, the drinks were served by the glass, and maybe the host was charged by the drink, but that wasn't obvious from what I saw as an attendee. (You do have to have a licensed bar tender serving the drinks.)

Michael - Just checked the OLCC site to see if anything changed. Per OLCC

"Selling distilled spirits by the bottle

In Oregon, distilled spirits (hard liquor) by the bottle are sold only in retail liquor stores. The State owns the distilled spirits in each store. "

And as for licensed bar tenders I think that depends on circumstances. Again from OLCC site

"You don't need a liquor license if you are serving alcohol, but not accepting payment or donations for it. A license is required if you will serve alcohol to your guests who will pay or donate money for their drink.

If you are using a caterer, make sure that they have a liquor license if your guests will be paying for their alcoholic beverages."

I bar tended at a political fundraiser in the mid-80s in Portland (involving city commissioners). Beer and wine, no hard liquor. I've never been licensed to tend bar in any state. There was a charge to get into the fundraiser but there was no per drink charge for servers to collect.

In college in another state, I often took a shift serving at college parties (drinking laws quite different in that day and in that place) and mostly it was beer with some wine once in awhile hard liquor but that was rare.

The caterer at my 50th birthday asked me to provide my own alcohol because I don't think they wanted to serve it (my guests served themselves) or take liability for it.

If some profit-seeking private hotel developer wants to assemble a parcel of land near the convention center and put a large hotel on it, with NO public subsidy of any kind, I say go for it.

The fact that no one is foolish enough to do this, despite all the claims of "low interest rates" and "bargain-basement construction costs," tells the whole story.

Forget the weather. Portland isn't going to get major conventions because there aren't that many direct flights into it from all over the country.

And that isn't going to change because Seattle/San Francisco/San Jose/LA are.

That one fact basically kills it as a major convention center.

It's not that I don't like the idea of the convention center -- I like it's look and it certainly looks very nice as a stand-in for PDX in the Leverage series filmed in Portland.

But it is what it is.

This could become a more popular place to visitors to come to for a convention.

It is quite remarkable that Portland loves to claim how just wonderfully planned we are compared to those sprawling cities like Seattle, and those awful "ex-urbs" of Vancouver, Salem, and so on...

Seattle's got a convention center right in the heart of downtown with all sorts of hotels nearby, shopping, restaurants...and it sits right on top of I-5. All the transit you want very close to it, too.

What did Portland do? Build the Convention Center next to a freeway junction (with only one direct off-ramp, off of I-84 westbound -- I-5 northbound requires a couple U-turns, and I-5 southbound requires navigating the mess that is the Rose Quarter), removed from downtown, removed from all the hotels and restaurants...

Ironically...is this little tidbit courtesy of YouTube (about 0:27 into the video).

There was a recent article in the WSJ talking about convention centers and what waste of money they are. Cities all around the country have wasted tons of money building convention centers and convention hotels.

It is basically a con game run by some fairly sharp developers who have perfected the art of scaming brain dead city council members into beliving that "you too can get rich in just your spare time by building a convention center".

As long as we continue to elect idiots to our various governing bodies in the local area, we'll be vulnerable to these sales pitches. Sam, and his kind, just don't know any better and can't resist the sales pitch. All they have to do is whisper "sustainable icon" in his ear and he signs the paperwork.

Let's see:
-antiquarian booze laws (probably unchangeable because some union jobs might be lost)
-a paucity of direct flights in to PDX
-convention center sited in a freeway slum
-the major entry to Portalnd's downtown, the west burnside bridgehead,
has an acrid stench of piss and attracts swarms of the unhinged every day at meal or bedtime...

Sounds about right, we need a fancy publicly-subsidized hotel to put up all the well-heeled visitors that want to come here. At the last convention I attended in downtown Portland, I met a nice lady from Eastern Oregon who said something like, "I went to take a walk because I thought Chinatown would be interesting, but I quickly realized maybe that wasn't a very safe area." Yep, welcome to Portland, where the liberals and unions are in control, and where the mentally ill will eventually outnumber the sane, if they don't already.

May I propose: Moving the Portland Building, the County Courthouse, and the Post Office to...wait for it...the Convention Center!

Why not just make it the sustainability center, all that vacant space should be more than enough for all the businesses (er... government agencies and government-subsidized non-profits) that need new sustainable office space. Metro knows a thing or two about refurbishing buildings, this would probably have only a fraction of the cost-overruns that the Sears/MW building had when they rebuilt it for their office building. And the CC already has all the plumbing hooked up so they can't accidentally forget to hook it up to the city sewage system (unlike the little oopsie with the Sears building).

I met a nice lady from Eastern Oregon who said something like, "I went to take a walk because I thought Chinatown would be interesting, but I quickly realized maybe that wasn't a very safe area."

These people who go to conventions do share their experiences with others about best places to go.
Apparently, it isn't Portland.


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