That’s a a word that Dalton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Brett Huske says he hears fairly often when showing potential clients around the Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center.
“That’s a nice way in the meeting industry to say a facility needs some work,” Huske said. “It’s a general statement. When you look at the freshness of the building, it’s the wear on the carpets, its the colors that are used. Colors change by time periods and can have a dated look. It’s just obvious when you walk into a facility and it’s outdated.”
The trade center was built 21 years ago, and officials say it hasn’t had a comprehensive overhaul since it was completed.
Huske hastens to add that the trade center is a “great asset” for the area and does attract a great deal of business.
Total attendance at events hosted by the facility was 158,700 in 2011, up from 103,637 in 2009 and 114,968 in 2010, according to data provided by trade center officials.
“The amount of space we have there, relative to the number of hotel rooms we have and the size of our community, is a far greater ratio than a lot of communities. Having said that, it is my belief that the facility is tired and needs a substantial renovation,” he said.
He notes that the trade center is now competing with several newer or recently remodeled convention centers and civic centers in Cartersville, Macon and Ringgold.
“But more important than what Brett Huske says, we lost the governor’s conference on tourism this year because, and this is what the organizers said: ‘We don’t have an attached hotel and the facility is tired,’” Huske said.
That event would have brought in about 500 people for two nights. And it is just one of several events that have turned down Dalton because the trade center does not have an attached hotel, looks dated or both, Huske said.
“We lost the Georgia Rural Letter Carriers. That was 400 people. The Ramp, 5,000 people that we had this year. They said they would probably not come back without an adjacent hotel. We only got them this year because they were bumped out of Chattanooga,” he said.
The trade center was designed so that a hotel could be built that would be attached to it, but that has never happened. Local officials came close in 2008, accepting a proposal from developer John Q. Hammons to build a 220- to 240-bed Embassy Suites hotel at the trade center. That deal would have called on trade center officials to refurbish the facility to bring its look up to date and make it match the hotel. But after then-Gov. Sonny Perdue vetoed a bill that would create tax credits for tourism-related projects such as that hotel, Hammons dropped out of the deal.
“We are still talking to investors, investigating our options,” said trade center authority board Chairman Dan Rogers. “We want to get a hotel here at the trade center. We know how important that is. We are optimistic.”
To a large extent, however, when and if a hotel is built at the trade center is in the hands of developers and investors, not local officials. But local officials do have more control over the trade center itself, and over the past 21 years they’ve done little to keep it fresh.
“For the most part, the building has not received major renovations,” said trade center General Manager Shashank Gairola. “It has been piecemeal here and there. Capital projects have been approved on the need at the time.”
The trade center is owned by the city of Dalton and Whitfield County. The Dalton City Council and the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners must equally fund the trade center’s operating deficit, which is expected to be about $950,000 this year. They must equally fund any capital improvements, which are typically not included in those operating funds.
“It’s fair to say that the facility has not received the cash necessary to make complete capital improvements,” Rogers said. “The reality is that budgets are tight. They were tight five years ago, and they are even tighter today.”
Click here for more from the Dalton Daily Citizen