State mulls hotel at Georgia World Congress Center

A new football stadium might not be the only new structure on the Georgia World Congress Center campus in the years to come.

The Georgia World Congress Center Authority is considering building a state-owned, multi-million dollar hotel.

Authority leaders said Friday at a retreat at Barnsley Gardens in Adairsville that the lodging would make it easier for conventioneers to get to Building C and help the mammoth facility compete with cities such as Chicago, Boston, Houston and Portland, Ore., which have or are considering municipal hotels. It also could spur development in communities around the stadium.

“A development like this would start to push development onto that west end and start to open up the corridor,” said GWCCA spokeswoman Jennifer LeMaster. LeMaster cautioned that the hotel discussions are preliminary and details such as number of rooms are still being discussed.

The GWCC authority oversees the Georgia Dome, the convention center — fourth-largest in the nation — and Centennial Olympic Park.

The hotel idea comes as efforts advance to select a site for the new $1 billion retractable-roof stadium. The congregation of Mount Vernon Baptist Church voted Thursday to sell the house of worship for $14.5 million to make way for the project to be built on a preferred parcel just south of the Dome. A second church on the site, Friendship Baptist Church, is expected to vote on a sale Sunday.

Heywood Sanders, a convention industry expert at the University of Texas at San Antonio, said adding a hotel comes with risk. Some cities have backed the cost of the projects with general funds, leaving taxpayers holding the bag during tough times.

“If there is not a convention in town that can fill these hotels, then rooms are sold at rock bottom prices and that is a losing strategy,” he said.

William Pate, president of the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau, expressed confidence the rooms could be sold.

“Our business is expanding,” he said. “A hotel next to Building C would completely change the dynamics of that facility.”

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