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City considers taking ownership of convention center

POSTED June 2, 2011 3:59 p.m.
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It’s not every day that a community is offered a half million dollars, but that will be one of the items up for discussion when the Great Bend City Council meets at 7:30 p.m. Monday in the city building.
According to the council’s agenda, the city is being offered the convention center, which is adjacent to the Highland Manor Hotel.
“A group of concerned citizens, who wish to remain anonymous, have been generous enough to raise funds to be used to purchase the convention center and office building from the bank,” according to Monday night’s agenda.
“They are donating the $500,000 in funds to the Great Bend Foundation and the city would then own the convention center and office building that is behind the convention center.
It is understood that over time the city would need to make improvements to the convention center. It is proposed that a 1 percent transient guest tax be levied to help pay for the improvements that will need to be made.”
City Administrator Howard Partington said the city currently has a 5 percent transient guest tax — collected on local guest rooms — and that adding another 1 percent would raise about $46,000 a year to be used to help with the costs associated with this project.
He said the issue was raised with the city as issues involving the hotel and convention center have been addressed.
Partington said the city was approached by local business leaders who were concerned that if the city isn’t involved, the community could lose the important convention facility.
According to information from the Great Bend Convention and Visitors Bureau, the center includes more than 25,000 square feet of meeting space, banquet seating for up to 1,200, break-out rooms, as well as the office area that is located to the back of the convention center.
Partington said the discussion so far has been for the city, if the council agrees to accept the facility, to contract with whoever is running the hotel to also provide food, beverage and other services for the convention center.
Partington said as the city staff have checked with local business leaders, they found there is a lot of concern that the city not lose the facility.
“We can’t do without the convention center in town,” he said the city officials were told.
The bank referred to in the agenda is Farmers Bank and Trust which owns the facility, said Farmers President Gene Dikeman. All existing contracts for the use of the center (which extend at least through the end of next year) will be honored, he said.

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