LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Despite concerns from local hotel owners, the City of Lake Charles puts the wheels in motion to build a hotel next to the Civic Center.
The Lake Charles City Council believes a Hyatt Place Hotel connected to the Civic Center would jump start the Lake Area hospitality industry, but the Southwest Louisiana Lodging Association begs to differ.
"Right now this is the worst that I've ever seen in Lake Charles in the 13 years I've worked and done business in the hotel industry. At this time we are 50% capacity," said Nick Zaver, hotel owner.
Zaver disputes a market study by PKF Hotel Consulting suggesting the area would support a 150-room hotel on the lakefront and attract new conferences to the Civic Center.
"Have you seen the convention calendar and what the Civic Center brings in overnight hotel stays - it's not much," said Zaver. "Also the Civic Center is not a convention center. You need to build a convention center because that facility is not a convention center."
Councilman Marshall Simien believes if they build a hotel connected to the Civic Center the conferences Lake Charles has historically missed out on will come.
"The conferences are not coming because none of the hotels can accommodate what they are looking for. Plus, this is not your traditional civic center. A civic center is usually a three-room box for meetings and things like that. PKF said that we actually have mislabeled the name of that building that it should be a convention and performing arts center," said Simien.
"To be honest we have considered changing the name to something more appropriate like a conference center to clear up any confusion," said Councilman Dana Carl Jackson.
According to Councilwoman Luvertha August, L'auberge and the Civic Center look to partner up to accommodate larger crowds for bigger concerts.
"Which means that now we are going to be able to get more people in that location who would probably use the hotel facilities. Also coming from someone who attends a fair share of conferences it is very convenient to stay at the same location the conference is being held."
The SWLA Lodging Association also objects to any city funds to develop the hotel outside of infrastructure.
"I'm okay with you guys going into a lease agreement. The problem that we have is we want to make sure there is no city funding or bond money to help support this hotel. We don't want this to be a city liability," said Zaver.
Several council members agree and said there is room to grow for everyone.
"Bottom line we are trying to develop a lakefront and that's part of the development because we are trying to get more people to come and visit and spend money, which could include your hotels as well," said Councilman Rodney Geyen.
After further discussion the council unanimously approved for the city and mayor to negotiate a lease agreement for the hotel with developer HRI.