The chief executive officer of the firm in charge of developing Evansville’s new $61 million convention hotel says revisions have created a property that fits the market. The project, which officially opened Tuesday morning and was marked by multiple delays, has been scaled down from initial plans that called for residential space and a more than $70 million price tag. HCW LLC Chief Executive Officer Richard Huffman says it’s unusual to be connecting a new hotel into two major existing properties like the Ford Center and The Old National Events Plaza. In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Huffman said the downtown DoubleTree will be an asset to the region.
Evansville Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Bob Warren, who Mayor Lloyd Winnecke says delayed his retirement to help advise the process through to the end, says the 242-room hotel "puts us back into the business of doing meetings and conventions." The city’s previous convention-focused hotel closed in 2009 and was demolished a year later to make room for the construction of the Ford Center. Though specific projections have not yet been determined, Warren says he believes future activities and events associated with the rekindled convention business will bring millions of dollars annually into the region. He says, even before the DoubleTree was complete, the promise of the hotel has helped his organization attract future business.
Winnecke says convention organizers have "shied away" from Evansville for years because it didn’t have the necessary accommodations near enough to event space. He says, as the third-largest city in Indiana, "we need to be in that game." Winnecke says tourism officials will continue to target religious and sporting events, where the city has had success in the past.