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Resort a boon for Expo Center, but doesn't mean subsidy question goes away
Amy LaMarca, who is active in the local Democratic Committee and helped prepare the bid for the convention, said behind-the-scenes politics played a role.
However, she said the convention planners were pleased with what Fredericksburg had to offer, and have indicated they are interested in bringing future events to the city.
To help them make that decision, they gave Fredericksburg two specific pieces of feedback:
The city didn't have enough hotel rooms within walking distance of the convention center.
While downtown was a selling point, the convention planners wanted a direct transportation link that their attendees could use to get there.
Both of those problems could be solved in the future.
Kalahari is going to have a direct physical connection to the Expo Center, and it will eventually add 900 hotel rooms to the four smaller inns that are already either open or in development in Celebrate Virginia.
Mayor Tom Tomzak said Friday that he wants to develop some form of mass transit to take people between Celebrate Virginia and the historic downtown.
City Economic Development Director Kevin Gullette said the city has been successful in drawing bus tours and day-trippers from Interstate 95.
"What we have not had the ability to do is to get overnight visitors," he said. "That's what the Expo Center allows us to do."
Gullette points to a consultant's study the city commissioned in 2001 to gauge the feasibility of building a convention center.
"Every single scenario said there needed to be public participation," he said.
Fredericksburg did not have to take on debt to get the privately built Expo Center.
But if it wants to leverage that center to bring multi-night group conventions to town, particularly in the years before Kalahari builds its resort, the city must help out, Ballantine said.
He has said repeatedly that the Expo Center is bringing the city more than double the $300,000 he's asking, in yearly tax revenues.
"We're looking for some of what we're already giving back," he said.Emily Battle: 540/374-5413