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Convention board members differ on opinions about hotel FEASIBILITY study

The head of the Jackson Convention Complex and its governing board have gone silent on whether a hotel connected to the complex would be economically viable.

A key executive of TCI Investments, a Dallas company in talks with the city on a 50-50 partnership to build a $94 million, 308-room convention headquarters hotel, says officials of the complex have endorsed a market feasibly study TCI commissioned. “They think this is very feasible,” said Al Crozier, executive VP of TCI, in a recent interview.

The privately performed feasibility study could be a key factor in the decision on whether the City of Jackson takes an equity position in the hotel. City officials say the city does not have a study but they are comfortable with the assessments and projects PKF Consulting did on TCI’s behalf.

That study projects an average nightly room rate of $150, a sum about $70 above what Smith Travel Research reports as the current average for Jackson hotels.

Crozier said his firm’s attorney and officials of the Convention Complex recently met and “everybody was all on board.” Crozier, however, did not identify which Convention Complex officials attended.

Linda McCarthy, executive director of the complex and an employee of Pennsylvania facilities management company SMG, has not returned repeated phone calls to her office and mobile phone starting June 6 and continuing through June 15. In a mid May interview, she called a convention hotel the remaining piece to the city’s convention business strategy.

Two members of the Convention Center Complex Commission, the seven-member board that governs the complex, referred questions about the hotel and the commission’s possible endorsement of a market feasibility study to Chairman Fred Banks Jr. They said the board has agreed it wanted to have a uniform voice on the issue and the board selected Banks to be the voice.

Banks, a former chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court, said he has not seen a market study and thus could not have endorsed one. “I don’t know where you get that understanding from,” he said in an interview last Tuesday. “I know nothing about the study.”

Commission member Jeff Good, a Jackson restaurateur, said other than Banks, board members “are not in the loop on that.”

Added Good: “Our chairperson is the one who is working with Mayor (Harvey) Johnson. He is the one who knows the details from our standpoint and what is proceeding.”

John E. Hardy, a commission member and manager of The University Club, said the convention hotel is “discussed at virtually every meeting.” He declined to comment on anything relating to a feasibility study, however.

“We have kept our cards close to the chest through the whole process,” Hardy said. “We don’t want to cause any problems with the financing.”

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About Ted Carter