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Convention center plans tabled

4/27/2014

By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT

mkenwright@dailynews.net

The plan for a Hays convention center has been tabled.

The development follows Walmart Supercenter's decision to oppose belonging to a proposed community improvement district. The zone would have included approximately 30 other businesses, and each one would have added a special 0.65-percent sales tax to fund the building's construction.

"As far as the current concept goes, we're just going to leave it idle for the time being," said Aaron White, executive director of the Ellis County Coalition for Economic Development.

Walmart's objections concerned the lack of more businesses within the CID. It would be difficult to get a 100-percent participation rate in the zone, because many businesses such as car dealerships or auto repair shops would not profit from a convention center, White said.

"It's harder to justify bringing them in to the district when they're not going to see any benefit from the district," he said.

The coalition began crafting its vision for the $8.2 million, 20,000-square foot facility four years ago after the city commission failed to find a viable idea.

"The coalition said they would take a crack at it. The city agreed," White said. "So, this was never something that was truly our project, again, this was going to be a public project, a public facility."

White did not know a timeline for another proposal. Postponing the plan is disappointing, he said.

"A lot of work has gone into it by a lot of folks," White said. "A lot of people donated their time and effort to work on this. So, you definitely hate to see all that get set back."

"It's good news for Hays," Mayor Henry Schwaller IV said. "I look forward to the coalition taking the energy, effort and enthusiasm they put into the convention center and putting it forward for entrepreneurship and small business development."

Private money should be responsible for the convention center, he said. It would provide investors and address long-term ownership and maintenance issues.