Big Dreams for Big Bucks at Big Center

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A now vacant lot in Northgate, if sold to the city, holds millions of dollars of potential with Thursday's hotel-convention center announcement.

"A facility like this will bring a lot of people into the community," said Royce Hickman, the local head of the Chamber of Commerce. "We like to call that "OPM" -- other people's money. When they're here, they spend money, which benefits the economy in a number of ways."

And those ways included the hotel-motel tax money collected by the local locales visitors would stay. And those visitors spend money here. Officials say on average, an overnight visitor spends more than $100 a day. And those sales tax dollars would stay here, too.

"A lot of those people then come back in the future, either with their families or other organizations, which then has a multiplier affect on us," said Hickman. "It's hard to be a destination city if you don't have a facility that will accommodate large meetings and conventions."

"We're talking about the types of groups that would bring anywhere from 2,000 to 2,500 people to an annual meeting," said Ron Gay, College Station councilmember.

And those mid-sized organizations have had to look to the big cities in Texas -- Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston -- if they want to hold a convention. If this is, indeed, the location for the new convention center in College Station, this gives those organizations a much more affordable option.

"There are people who think $25 million represents a huge investment by the community, and they're right," said Gay. "But the payback, the return on that investment is also huge, and it's a risk I'm willing to take."

And after a decade of debate, it's a risk on the brink of reality.

Councilmembers at last night's meeting also expressed the hope that the new dollars generated by the facility could drastically reduce property taxes.