03/13/18 — Officials inch closer to hotel

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Officials inch closer to hotel

By Steve Herring
Published in News on March 13, 2018 5:50 AM

When the Maxwell Regional Agricultural and Convention Center opened March 1, one piece of the puzzle was still missing -- an adjacent hotel.

And without a quality hotel, the center will have problems booking larger events that look for nearby hotel space, Wayne County officials have said.

On Monday, Goldsboro and county officials met with a company -- the name of which has not been announced -- to hear proposals on data collection.

That information to be collected is not currently available, but it is needed to help recruit a hotel developer, Wayne County Commission Chairman Bill Pate said.

The company would compile the data for the county and suggest leads to follow.

Companies that build hotels will need the data upfront before deciding whether they are going to build here, he said.

The process is in the preliminary stages, and no decision has been made, Pate said.

"We will have to go back and talk to our boards about it first," he said.

Pate said he has not had a chance to finish reading the proposal and that he does not know what the timeline for such an effort would be.

The hotel is part of the March 2015 partnership between Wayne County and the city of Goldsboro that helped turn decades of dreams of a convention center into a reality.

Under the agreement, Goldsboro conveyed 12 of the 18 acres it owns on Wayne Memorial Drive to the county for the agricultural center, which will serve a dual role as a convention center.

In return, Wayne County helped the city to proceed with its plans to convert the former Goldsboro Country Club into the Goldsboro Event Center and with a new multi-sports complex adjacent to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

As part of the deal, the city agreed to work to attract a company to build a first-rate hotel on the lot adjoining the Maxwell Center property.

That has yet to happen, leading Wayne County commissioners to voice concerns during a January joint meeting with the Goldsboro City Council that the lack of a hotel will adversely affect the center's ability to attract bookings.

But even without the hotel, more than 10,000 people visited the Maxwell Center during its first week of operation, Pate said.

Pate was questioned about the hotel Saturday during the Wayne County Republican Party convention.

"We were smart enough to realize that we were not smart enough to recruit a hotel," Pate said. "But what we did, we went out and recruited consultants who do that for a living."

The hotel is needed to make the center the total success that it will be, Pate said.

"It is still going to be a success," Pate said. "I want to make sure that I make that clear. It will be a success, but we need that hotel.

"Those big conventions that come, you have got to have a place where they can walk over to their room. If you have wine and beer served at some sort of thing, you don't want anybody on the road driving. We are working on that, and we will get it."

The whole concept that the county had with the Maxwell Center was based on having a hotel, Commissioner Joe Daughtery said at the January joint meeting.

"The viability is hinging on that hotel," he said "We are going to have to make this happen somehow. It is important."

During that same meeting, Maxwell Center Director James Wade said he has a lot of people calling inquiring about booking dates. But when they hear that there is no hotel yet, some of them have said he needed to call them back when he can get a date for the hotel.

Mayor Chuck Allen and City Manager Scott Stevens assured commissioners during the meeting that the hotel remains a priority for the city.

There is a need for a good hotel and a good restaurant on that corner, Allen said. The restaurant will help draw a hotel, he said.

Since then city and county officials have continued to meet to talk about what might be done differently, Stevens said.

The firm would do a market analysis and "sort of a feasibility study" to have better data than just what the city knows from data on night stays and that kind of information, Stevens said.

The study would provide a clearer understanding of what hotels are really after, he said.