BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Negotiations are underway that could put a major hotel next door to the Coast Convention Center. Coliseum Director Bill Holmes said this window of opportunity for a hotel won't be open for long. Holmes told WLOX that he can't release many details about the project right now, but he did say that it will likely take some help from taxpayers to make the deal happen.
When convention center officials wanted to find out how to best increase bookings, they went straight to the people who plan the meetings.
"There is no question that a conventional center hotel will draw a lot more people than are coming into the community. We have the support of the casino properties because they realize that fact," said Holmes. "We had a survey done of over 1,000 meeting planners, and 77 percent said they would come to the Mississippi Gulf Coast if they had a convention center hotel adjacent to or connected to the convention center."
Katrina destroyed the hotel that was next to the convention center. Holmes said since the storm, 6,500 service jobs and 20 percent of hotel rooms on the coast have also gone away.
"We're going to bring in at least 250 direct jobs. That's not talking construction," said Holmes. "We're going to talk about another 500 rooms and this is not just any kind of hotel. This will be a major flag. This will be bricks and mortar."
The clock is ticking on this deal because it would be partially funded by go zone money that must be allocated by December 31st. Holmes said local taxpayer money will also be needed but at this time it's not clear exactly how much.
"There's 42 communities out there in America that have either built their own hotels next to convention centers or have public-private financed. That's what we're looking at public-private finance," Holmes said. "The governor has allocated the go zone bond issue to the project. He's done everything he can do to help us now it's time to help ourselves. "
Holmes said, "The timeline that we have with the development of this hotel is so tight that on January 3rd if everything goes right, we will come out of the ground."
Coliseum Bill Holmes said the Coliseum Commission is slated to sign a letter of engagement with the developer, Mortenson Development, next week. He said the renderings for the project will be made public at that time.