The River Region's Wave of the Future!
Elmore County Economic Development Authority
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With the numerous sports teams coming in this weekend and over the summer to the City of Wetumpka’s Municipal Sports Complex, the issue of the obvious need for a hotel generates a lot of discussion.
We at ECEDA are often asked about this issue, and we have been working hard with the mayor and city council and chamber to overcome it.
All of us want a hotel and we need it. Make no doubt about it.
After numerous meetings with hotel developers, franchisees and neighboring hotel owners in other communities, here’s what I can share.
Due to the current banking and investment atmosphere nationally, hotel financing in particular has been difficult unless a group of investors has the cash to put out for as much as 65 percent of the total project costs.
Making the proposition even more difficult for Wetumpka, Millbrook and Tallassee to land a hotel is what hotel consultants consider an“overbuilt” market in Montgomery.
Most hoteliers operate from a 15 mile feasibility radius which will include Wetumpka, Prattville and Millbrook in almost any radius.
Because of the recent hotel explosions in Montgomery before the markets went down in late 2007, overall occupancy rates have dropped to 58 percent (as of April 2011). This hurts the“feasibility” rating of other hotel investors looking to come to Elmore County, particularly Wetumpka with its proximity to Montgomery.
The game-changer for Wetumpka (plus spillover effects over to Millbrook and Tallassee) would be the construction and opening of the Poarch Creek Indian Tribe’s casino.
This proximity would indeed increase the feasibility and profitability of an “off-site” hotel(s), not including any hotel the Tribe may build on their property.
Even then cities must, in most cases, provide incentives and infrastructure assistance in “closing the deal.”
As the city continues to develop and recruit fishing trails, kayaking and river events, ball tournaments and conferences to the Wetumpka Civic Center, this too will indeed help to get the numbers up for the feasibility and need for a hotel.
And the city is correct to keep recruiting these events and has done a good job.
It is important to note that Montgomery’s ability to host the Bassmasters Elite Series and other fishing tournaments is because it has the hotels to do this.
What is ironic and even frustrating is the tournaments, for the most part, do their fishing on Elmore County waters — the Coosa, Tallapoosa and Alabama Rivers as well as Lake Jordan.
Without a hotel and a riverfront development plan with new boat docking and event staging facilities, Wetumpka cannot capture the full economic impact of these events.
The mayor and the city council have recognized this and next month will begin the process to develop a plan for the riverfront and downtown. Recruiting hotels will obviously be a major piece of the plan.
It’s a huge step forward for Wetumpka.
The mayor, city council and ECEDA want all of our citizens to be a part of the process to develop the plan.
Our time for Wetumpka is coming, and a hotel is just one of the things that are on the horizon.
Barry Mask is executive director of the Elmore County Economic Development Authority.
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