Dallas Council Moves Convention Center Hotel Forward

HIL ANDERSON, SENIOR EDITOR
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Dallas, TX – The Dallas City Council this week approved contracts for the construction and operation of a new Omni hotel to be built adjacent to the city’s convention center, setting the stage for the final steps in the launch of the $346 million project.

Developer Matthews Southwest was officially named the developer of the 1,000-room hotel and Omni Hotels was named operator. The next and final step before breaking ground will be the sale of city revenue bonds to pay for the project.

The hotel is slated for completion in 2011, and city leaders say it will make Big D a big deal in the convention and trade show business. “Building an attached convention center hotel will put Dallas on the map again for many groups,” said Don Freeman, chairman of Freeman and chairman-elect of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The hotel will be built on an 8.34-acre lot purchased by the city last Spring. Along with 1,000 guest rooms, the hotel will feature 100,000 square feet of meeting space, including a grand and a junior ballroom. As part of the agreement, Matthews Southwest will also recruit new restaurants and entertainment venues to the neighborhood.

The Dallas Convention Center boasts 1,018,942 square feet of prime exhibit space. It is ranked No. 10 in Trade Show Executive’s Millionaire’s Club which includes the ten venues in the U.S. with more than one million square feet of prime exhibit space.

The addition of the hotel to the convention center neighborhood, Freeman said, would remove a significant handicap that has been discouraging show organizers and convention planners from selecting Dallas as a host city. Dallas’ lack of an attached convention center hotel for the Dallas Convention Center has been a major drawback when show organizers of citywide events select destinations, he said.

The project has been opposed by a Dallas taxpayer group. Earlier in the week, however, the group failed in an attempt to win a temporary restraining order that would have prevented construction from starting until after a public vote on May 9. Critics are opposed to the use of city bonds in the financing and are asking Dallas voters to approve the idea of the city owning a hotel.

Philip Jones, president and CEO of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the hotel will pay off for the city in terms of new visitors. He said that when a new Omni Hotel opened in neighboring Fort Worth, 258,000 future room nights in 2008 were booked as a direct result compared to the 129,000 future room nights booked in 2007. “Last year in Dallas, we booked a record 1.2 million future room nights, and 195,000 of those were contingent on the hotel announcement,” he said. “We expect an increase in new business that will benefit all area hotels over the coming years.”

Reach Don Freeman at (214) 445-1000 or don.freeman@freemanco.com; Philip Jones at (214) 571-1010 or pjones@dallascvb.com