By Request: The Evansville CVB’s Last Dime? Ballfields, Hotel, Both, or NONE OF THE ABOVE???


Republished by Reader Request

Fort Wayne Covention Hotel
By: Joe J. Wallace

The City County Observer has studied and published articles that examine the economic expectations and realities of both The Park (8 baseball fields) and the Executive Inn Dilemma. Our conclusions thus far are that a lack of planning has created an unavoidable last minute quagmire that leaves the City of Evansville in the unenviable position of needing to provide significant incentives to secure a binding and enforceable agreement to entice a developer to construct and operate a 3-Star Convention Hotel in Downtown Evansville. The planning or lack thereof of the Convention Hotel was conducted in a vacuum and only became public when the wheels fell off of the bus. The Park on the other hand as we have reported has been planned and properly disclosed.

As separable as such projects should be these are not. The Park and the Convention Hotel are joined at the hip. The hip is of course Robert’s Stadium that is slated to be demolished by the Evansville Convention and Visitors Bureau to make way for 8 baseball fields at a cost of $18 Million. That $18 Million represents the maximum amount of money that the CVB can borrow for brick and mortar projects that promote tourism. A Downtown Convention Hotel certainly qualifies as a brick and mortar project that promotes tourism.

As Dan Shaw of the Evansville Courier has reported, Evansville can’t follow in the footsteps of Fort Wayne with one important mechanism for providing incentives. Fort Wayne has a special economic-development mechanism known as a Community Revitalization Enhancement District in its downtown. That mechanism provided $6 Million in tax credits that were vital to Fort Wayne’s ability to secure White Lodging’s commitment. Without that mechanism, Evansville will certainly have to consider ways of replacing that incentive. The dollars that are currently being slated to build The Park could be used to fill any gap that may exist in the incentive package put together to attract a Convention Hotel.

Evansville may be faced with another dilemma. That dilemma is of course what if we have to choose between a Downtown Convention Hotel and The Park? It is the position of the City County Observer that if we must choose, then the only logical choice is to protect the $200 Million investment in the Arena and its surroundings by choosing the Convention Hotel.

There are only a certain number of funds that can be accessed to do brick and mortar projects that support tourism. It is our position that we MUST HAVE a Downtown Convention Hotel to have a viable location for conventions and a fully functioning Arena. After studying both local proposals and understanding the financial arrangement that Fort Wayne agreed to in securing their Marriot, the City County Observer recommends the following for immediate implementation.

First, we recommend that the Convention and Visitors Bureau postpone the decision on The Parks until a binding contract is in place for a Convention Hotel.

Secondly we recommend that the CVB funds be put on the table as both eligible and appropriate for use in doing what needs to be done to make the Downtown Sports and Convention Complex first class by the addition of a 3-Star Convention Hotel. If it takes the entire $18 Million then that would be money more wisely spent that if it were spent on ball fields without securing a Convention Hotel.

Finally we recommend that after and only after a binding agreement is in place to bring a 3-Star Convention Hotel to Downtown Evansville that other projects be considered. If baseball fields in the proximity to Wesselman Park turn out to be the defendable best use of the remaining funds for attracting tourism then go forward with some version of The Park that utilizes the remaining funds.

There are two more steps that must be taken to proceed with The Park. The first is that the Vanderburgh County Commissioners must grant their approval to proceed and secondly the Vanderburgh County Council must approve the use of the innkeeper’s taxes. The City County Observer calls upon both of these governing bodies to table these decisions until a Downtown Convention Hotel agreement is secured with a quality developer. The success of $200 Million plus may just depend on taking the time to make a learned judgment.


  1. Great report Joe.
    If we can table this ballfields project and deal with whats on our plate already, we will be better off!

  2. Alas!

    WFIE-14 reports that the new CVB director is trying to resurrect the ball-fields scam.

    WTVW-7 also has reported that the new CVB director is heading down the same ill-fated ball-fields project path.

    Further: TV25 reports that the Jehova’s Witnesses have reservations about The Downtown Arena for their future conventions.
    (parking and expense)

    Notable that CourierPress has not heard these reports, or chooses not to deliver the information to its’ readership. …

    • 2 of your 3 links don’t work. The tristatehomepage one doesn’t take you right there, but I found it after hunting a little bit.

  3. So, what should we do with CVB money? Pay for a porcupine array of antenae atop the new arena so all the Weinerama sexting junkies can iPhone homies?

    • Actually there is no money anywhere yet but there is a cash stream that can be used to raise about $18 Million via a bond issue. This money is restricted to buy hard assets that promote tourism. In the past the money has been leveraged into many projects on a pay as you go basis. They have invested about $8M so far and if my memory is good the projects completed are at least 5 times that. I know they put up big contributions for the African American Museum and the Museum Annex.

      If they bond it and spend it all on one thing that removes the capacity to do partials and leverage the dollars. What is important is to get the most bang for the buck with tourism. Having done the analysis I am sure that $18M ballfields are not the best use of the money. Less expensive ballfields, fixing up the parks, helping secure a hotel etc. all would qualify.

      Maybe leveraging is the best way to go. The impacts seem to be pretty impressive thus far.

        • Soon2B has a good idea here. See if you can arrange an interview. Maybe you will hear an echo of those other people’s words in his ear.

      • When attending a sub-committee meeting of the Plan Commission last year, I posed a question to Ted Ziemer and the lady who was the attorney for the CVB. She was there selling the ball fields idea to push it through the Plan Comm. My question had to do with the legality of the CVB running a business. The money that was proposed for use for the ball fields was for “bricks and mortar” projects only, so how could the CVB legally use it long term to run a business? I had read the state code regarding the CVB in general and the Evansville CVB in particular, which had already been juiced up with a higher tax on hotel rooms to stretch to pay for the ball fields. It said nothing about “running a business” as being the role of the CVB anywhere. Seems to me that it could only be hidden so long in “donations” to the Parks Dept. When I asked, neither attorney said a word, even after the question was repeated. Has the new CVB director had a recent meeting with the mayor? With Mr. Dunn? Or does he just like to stir up the past? As has been said before, where is the master plan for ANYTHING in Evansville?

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