Condo Projects Spark Cruisin Concerns - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

08/23/05

Condo Projects Spark Cruisin Concerns

Community leaders created Cruisin the Coast 10 years ago to extend the tourism season into fall. And it worked -- the car show filled hotel rooms each October.

Now some of those hotel rooms are being sold to condominium developers. And the car buffs are scrambling to find a place to stay.

The Travel Inn was always a prime location for classic car buffs. A large parking lot right on Highway 90, adjacent to a restaurant and two casinos gave Cruisin the Coast guests easy access to all the action.

This year, 62 Cruisin the Coast participants had reservations at the Travel Inn. "Had" being the key word. On August 1, management sent out letters, informing those people that the hotel was nothing more than a memory. The property had been sold. October reservations were no longer valid.

That news kind of backed Cruisin organizers into a corner.

"We're concerned for our customers obviously," said Cruisin the Coast Director Gene Oswalt. "Anything that affects the participants affects us."

During the October 2-9 car showcase, Cruisin the Coast loses access to the Travel Inn and the Broadwater. But resort hotels just closed, so they could be knocked down and replaced by condominium projects.

The room inventory problem gets worse when Cruisin the Coast turns 11. The hotel association counted 3,000 rooms that are targeted for demolition next year.

"That's a lot of rooms," said Oswalt.

Several properties that annually roll out the red carpet for Cruisin guests won't be booking rooms for them. Instead, they'll be in the middle of a transition from hotel to condominium.

"Yes the face of the coast is going to change. And the face of this event will evolve as well," Oswalt said. "But we're prepared to deal with it. Obviously, we're going to have to be creative about where we put these people. But I feel like we'll make it work."

To ease this October's hotel concerns, Imperial Palace offered Cruisin the Coast a block of rooms initially set aside for another group. And car buffs also took advantage of new rooms at both the Hard Rock and the Isle of Capri.

by Brad Kessie

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