Abilene is moving forward with plans to build a downtown convention center hotel. City officials gathered yesterday to celebrate the passage of House Bill 2445, legislation that will allow Abilene to keep some of the hotel-motel tax revenue that would otherwise go to the state. Rep. Stan Lambert said there were many other communities that wanted a similar legislation passed in their communities. He called the bill an economic driver and said the sales tax we’ll keep for ten years will later revert back to the state.
“As we’ve seen in other communities who have already had this similar type program in place, those projects, those hotels began providing a return on the investment much much sooner than the ten years that we’re actually keeping those funds in order to provide this special financing for this project,” Lambert said.
City Manager Robert Hanna said the bill is an important milestone.
“We passed a big hurdle and this hotel bill, House Bill 2445, is going to allow this city to leverage both state dollars and local dollars for our match of the debt service associated with this facility right here,” Hanna said.
Hanna said the community could end up paying about 33 percent of the cost of the project, which could be more than 18 million dollars but the house bill is going to pay for 80 percent if not more. Next the city will be working on negotiating a master development agreement, then comes an investment grade audit and finally the city council will weigh the scales and decide the fate of the project.
Mayor Norm Archibald told the crowd to “close your eyes and see the hotel out there,” as he pointed out the south windows of the Abilene Convention Center.
“Just keep envisioning that this is just the start of great things,” Archibald said.