eDebate: Davis vs. Winnecke (repost)


2/7/2011 eDebate
Evansville Mayoral Election

Rick Davis (D)

Lloyd Winnecke (R)

Question #3: Do you have any thoughts on the ongoing downtown hotel development? Are you happy with the way this process has been managed, or do you think you could have made improvements?

     I am very unhappy with the way this entire process has happened. The Executive Inn was by no means a luxury hotel, but it was still contributing tax revenues in several ways: Innkeepers tax from folks who were renting rooms; county option income tax from employees who were working at the facility; food and beverage tax from food and alcohol sales at a bar and buffet at the facility; sales tax; and property taxes. Since the building faced the wrath of the wrecking ball, local governing units have lost out on all of those tax revenues in an already challenging economy for the public and private sectors. And guess what: The new arena will not be paying property taxes, something the Executive Inn and all of the structures that previously existed along Main Street were paying. But the Main Street structures have been torn down to make room for the arena, and that means you and I have to make up that property tax shortfall to pay for vital services such as public safety. And let’s not forget that the previous property owners of the demolished structures along Main Street were paid well more than the properties were actually worth in order for the City to buy them to make room for the arena.

     The new $127.5 million arena will be paid from the following tax revenues: food and beverage taxes, riverboat gambling taxes, and Downtown TIF. I have been quoted as saying the current administration had a “Ready, Fire, Aim” mentality when it came to the Downtown arena and the Executive Inn. The current administration did not ink a deal with a hotel company before the building was demolished, and that was a major mistake which will mean a major delay in the reopening of a new hotel. That means many more months of area governing units missing out on precious tax revenues. The remaining Executive Inn shell currently sits in a sorry state of affairs next to what is supposed to be the centerpiece of the Downtown, the new arena. As a result of misguided planning, the city and county have lost out on scores of conventions and thousands of dollars in tax revenues.

     The arena and hotel deals have been an embarrassing, unpopular situation every step of the way. Luckily, within the last few weeks the city administration was able to work out a deal with a reputable local company to bring in a very nice hotel facility. Of course, the agreement included incentives, including $3.5 million from Downtown economic development funds from Casino Aztar; up to $4.5 million in loans supported by the downtown TIF; and a 10-year property tax phase in. With proper planning and patience, the Executive Inn could have remained in operation while the new hotel and was being built at the new proposed location, where the Executive Inn’s parking garage currently sits. That would have allowed for conventions to continue being booked in Evansville during construction of the new hotel. Once the new hotel was built, the arena and a new parking garage could have been built. That’s Ready, Aim, Fire!

     Having an attractive hotel adjacent to the new arena and the Centre is critical to Evansville’s ability to attract and retain conventions and events. It is unfortunate that delays prevented the hotel from opening concurrently with the opening of the arena, but it seems as though the city made a wise choice in selecting the local project team. As mayor I will ensure work continues promptly and that the result is a project for which the city can be proud. It is important that our city and its downtown can become a destination point not only for residents of our community, but also for visiting tourists and conventions.

     I believe elements of the process were hampered as a result of the existing economic conditions. Tightened credit markets simply made it difficult for many developers to obtain the necessary financing, which slowed the process and forced the change in direction.


  1. Some people are easily impressed with a few big words strung together in such a way that they mean nothing.

  2. There was a website error that caused us to lose the comments on this post from yesterday and this morning. I am trying to retrieve them.

  3. I would like to apologize for all who were involved in the discussion yesterday. The ~17 comments from the last 24 hours are gone, and irretrievable. I will be taking measures to assure that this loss of data does not happen again.

    • Instructed and baptized 22 Chinese people at Easter time. Help them with first Confessions in the past few wezBk.saptieed another 10 people at Pentecost. Still giving instructions to a number of non-Catholic Chinese. Will start my new assignment in July, and will start celebrating Chinese Mass in Coquitlam on July 17.Have been praying for you, Fr. Z, since I read your request for prayers. May God bless you!

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