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Monona Terrace Hotel: It's really more of a Shelbyville idea

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Monona Terrace Hotel: It's really more of a Shelbyville idea

Postby TheBookPolice » Fri Jan 11, 2013 4:51 pm

http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/artic ... icle=38756

Heywood Sanders has seen this pitch before.

The narrative goes something like this: cities build a downtown convention center in hopes of luring visitors who will spend lots of money in downtown restaurants, bars and shops. But the visitors don't quite come in the numbers consultants promised, so the city decides it needs to build a grand headquarters hotel nearby, which will make its facility much more attractive to organizations holding conventions.

It's the advice that C.H. Johnson Consulting of Chicago is now giving to Madison officials. Its study, released earlier this week, recommends Madison build a 400- to 500-room hotel on Wilson Street, across from the Monona Terrace Convention Center. The company projects this will bring $78.8 million in spending, $31.3 million in earnings, and support 787 full-time equivalent jobs. "A new hotel," the report says, "is needed to sustain Monona Terrace operations and unlock significant market potential."


I like Monona Terrace a lot more than the average Madisonian, I gather -- probably because I wasn't here before or while it was built. But jeez oh man, what a bunch of nonsense this consultant study is.

Lyle Lanely: You know, a town with money is a little like the mule with the spinning wheel. No one knows how he got it and danged if he knows how to use it.
[crowd laughs]
Homer: He heh... mule.
Lyle Lanely: The name's Lanely! Lyle Lanely. And I come before you good people tonight with an idea. Probably the greatest... Aw, it's not for you. It's more of a Shelbyville idea.
[starts to walk out of the room]
Mayor Quimby: [at the podium] Now wait just a minute! We're twice as smart as the people of Shelbyville. You just tell us your idea and we'll vote for it!
Lyle Lanely: All right. I'll tell you what I'll do! I'll show you my idea.
[runs over to a display covered by a sheet, and he whips it off, revealing a diorama of Springfield with a monorail model going through it]
Lyle Lanely: I give you the Springfield Monorail!
[crowd gasps]
Lyle Lanely: I've sold monorails to Brockway, Ogdenville, and North Haverbrook, and by gum I've put them on the map!
[holds up a map of the U.S. with those towns' names drawn on with pen]
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Re: Monona Terrace Hotel: It's really more of a Shelbyville

Postby Stebben84 » Fri Jan 11, 2013 5:12 pm

TheBookPolice wrote:But jeez oh man, what a bunch of nonsense this consultant study is.


I thought the same thing when I read this. They don't consider the new Edgewater to be close enough. Also, wasn't a giant hotel built over there specifically for that place? I also see they're building a pretty damn big hotel on Johnson and Bassett which didn't hear about before it started going up.
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Re: Monona Terrace Hotel: It's really more of a Shelbyville

Postby gargantua » Fri Jan 11, 2013 5:20 pm

That monorail episode is one of my favorites. I never know what to make of these consultant studies other than to be skeptical of them. After all, consultants sold us on the whole idea of Monona Terrace in the first place, based on the number of conventions and visitors. Now it appears they were wrong.

In addition, since they are paid a considerable sum of money, they sort of feel the need to, you know, recommend something. When was the last time you remember a consulting firm recommending that its client simply stay the course? Does anyone really think that a consulting firm would come back with: "We studied your market thoroughly, and have found that a city of your size in this northern climate really can't do much better than you're actually doing"?

By the way, I've been here my entire life and I like Monona Terrace.
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Re: Monona Terrace Hotel: It's really more of a Shelbyville

Postby Igor » Sat Jan 12, 2013 1:45 am

Cost/Benefit analysis only seems to matter beforehand. Nobody ever reviews them afterwards.
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Re: Monona Terrace Hotel: It's really more of a Shelbyville

Postby rabble » Sat Jan 12, 2013 9:33 am

Instead of reading this study I'd like to see a study on where conventions are actually being held these days. I know the article mentions that convention numbers are going down but not much else. If we know the numbers are dropping it seems like we ought to know how much they're dropping and where they're going.

I'll take a stab and guess that they're either being held at the big name places like Vegas, LA, NY, Maui, etc, or the cheapest most geographically convenient venue possible.
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Re: Monona Terrace Hotel: It's really more of a Shelbyville

Postby Dust Mite Rodeo » Sat Jan 12, 2013 10:12 am

What's the occupancy rate at the Sheraton and Holiday Inn just down the road? How often are they filled to capacity? If the answer is "not often" then we don't need no damn hotel. Do I have any say in whether my tax dollars are spent so that the orthodontist's society can have their annual convention here?
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Re: Monona Terrace Hotel: It's really more of a Shelbyville

Postby gargantua » Sat Jan 12, 2013 12:23 pm

Dust Mite Rodeo wrote: Do I have any say in whether my tax dollars are spent so that the orthodontist's society can have their annual convention here?

That's a rhetorical question, right? Because the answer is, of course not.
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Re: Monona Terrace Hotel: It's really more of a Shelbyville

Postby snoqueen » Sat Jan 12, 2013 12:43 pm

I remember all the consultants a few decades ago telling medium-size cities how they just had to build professional sports facilities or they'd forever be second-rate places no one visits.

Now how many of those towns are stuck paying the bills for some big stadium that changes ownership every three or four years because nobody can make a dime off it, so the city has to make up the difference over and over?

The only person making money here is the consultant. I'll be dismayed (but not surprised) if Madison falls for this. And what about the Edgewater, which a number of people right on this forum including me kept saying was in the wrong location? Surprise! It is.
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Re: Monona Terrace Hotel: It's really more of a Shelbyville

Postby green union terrace chair » Sat Jan 12, 2013 4:43 pm

Stebben84 wrote:
TheBookPolice wrote:But jeez oh man, what a bunch of nonsense this consultant study is.


I thought the same thing when I read this. They don't consider the new Edgewater to be close enough. Also, wasn't a giant hotel built over there specifically for that place? I also see they're building a pretty damn big hotel on Johnson and Bassett which didn't hear about before it started going up.

snoqueen wrote:And what about the Edgewater, which a number of people right on this forum including me kept saying was in the wrong location? Surprise! It is.

I don't know about this report, but the earlier report from a few years back claimed that a hotel needed to be within 1,500 feet of the Monona Terrace, which neither the Edgewater nor the Hampton Inn (on Johnson and Bassett) would be.

There oughta be a big asterisk in Joe Tarr's article about the recent figures used. The decrease in convention attendance nationally can be attributed in great part to the recession.
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Re: Monona Terrace Hotel: It's really more of a Shelbyville

Postby seemunkyz » Mon Jan 14, 2013 1:56 pm

rabble wrote:Instead of reading this study I'd like to see a study on where conventions are actually being held these days. I know the article mentions that convention numbers are going down but not much else. If we know the numbers are dropping it seems like we ought to know how much they're dropping and where they're going.

I'll take a stab and guess that they're either being held at the big name places like Vegas, LA, NY, Maui, etc, or the cheapest most geographically convenient venue possible.


We are actually losing some of these conventions to other Midwest Cities. Most recently we lost the Girlst State Basketball tournament to Green Bay, and in recent years the World Dairy Expo has been threatening to move to Ohio. This hotel may sit empty for part of the year, yes, but if when these large events that bring Millions of dollars per year into the city don't have enough space, they leave, even if to Minneapolis, Milwaukee, or even Green Bay. Part of the reason we have been and hope to continue to be a poplular convention destination is because we are the "cheapest most geographically convenient venue" as you suggest. We just won't be for long if we don't act.

Also, in order to be a convention hotel it must be directly connected to a convention center (i.e. why the Edgewater doesn't count). This is why the Judge Doyle square is ideal, because they can connect to the Terrace via underground tunnels.

My question is, who decides what hotel has rights to the space?
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Re: Monona Terrace Hotel: It's really more of a Shelbyville

Postby rabble » Mon Jan 14, 2013 2:06 pm

seemunkyz wrote:We are actually losing some of these conventions to other Midwest Cities. Most recently we lost the Girls State Basketball tournament to Green Bay, and in recent years the World Dairy Expo has been threatening to move to Ohio.

I didn't know that either of those examples was related to our not having a big enough hotel. I thought the tourney thing was about us not giving them the dates and rates they wanted. And I thought they were coming back.

I can't remember what the dairy expo issues are.
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Re: Monona Terrace Hotel: It's really more of a Shelbyville

Postby green union terrace chair » Mon Jan 14, 2013 2:42 pm

rabble wrote:
seemunkyz wrote:We are actually losing some of these conventions to other Midwest Cities. Most recently we lost the Girls State Basketball tournament to Green Bay, and in recent years the World Dairy Expo has been threatening to move to Ohio.

I didn't know that either of those examples was related to our not having a big enough hotel. I thought the tourney thing was about us not giving them the dates and rates they wanted. And I thought they were coming back.

I can't remember what the dairy expo issues are.

The Dairy Expo issue is that they are outgrowing (have outgrown) the space at the Colosseum and Expo Center.
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Re: Monona Terrace Hotel: It's really more of a Shelbyville

Postby psforsberg » Mon Jan 14, 2013 3:22 pm

A couple of months ago I held a 600+ person conference at Monona Terrace, the 3rd time I've held a conference there in 11 years. We purposely did not hold a conference in Madison until the Hilton was built. While not a large hotel due to being shoehorned into a small space, the Hilton meets most of our hotel space needs for this conference. We use the Inn on the Park for overflow and while not as nice as the Hilton, our student attendees and others with lower travel budgets appreciate the lower cost and easily walkable distance.

We've also used the Concourse for this conference and the feedback we received from our attendees was not good. It's a nice hotel, but it's too far from the Monona Terrace, particularly if the weather is not good. Most conference planners wouldn't even consider the Edgewater, Hyatt Place or Sheraton for a conference at Monona Terrace unless they were expecting 1,000+ attendees and needed the rooms. For those bigger conferences, a new hotel at Judge Doyle Square would make the Monona Terrace a much more attractive site. For my 600 or so attendees, the existing hotels are just fine.

We've had decent conference attendance over the last few years no matter where in North America we hold our conferences, but attendance is definitely not what it was pre-9/11. We rely on a lot of local, state and federal employees for our presenters and attendees, but due to budget cuts, where an agency might have been able to send 3 or 4 people to a conference, now they're sending 1 or 2. When budgets are strained, travel budgets are the first thing to be cut. This is not just a Madison problem, it's nationwide in the US and Canada.
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Re: Monona Terrace Hotel: It's really more of a Shelbyville

Postby snoqueen » Mon Jan 14, 2013 3:34 pm

I hope you and other experienced local conference presenters speak up when the time comes to make an official decision on this new hotel.

Also, I think the slowing of the convention-conference business is permanent due to teleconferencing. If some organization can have one conference a year and teleconference for their other meetings, where in the old days they had two or three conferences, obviously they'll stick to the one conference model. The lavish entertainment style conferences of the past are never coming back for most sectors of the economy.

We cannot afford to build a huge amount of infrastructure hoping an obsolete business/professional/academic networking model will revive. I think the city should put its development dollars into cultivating permanent small- to medium-size businesses in the downtown, the east side, and the airport/MATC area all of which are underutilized. Spreading our development resources among a number of businesses instead of just one (conferences/conventions) seems wiser than putting all the eggs in one basket.
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Re: Monona Terrace Hotel: It's really more of a Shelbyville

Postby psforsberg » Mon Jan 14, 2013 3:53 pm

I'm not against the proposal to build a new hotel, per se, but I don't think this is the time. There are more important issues to deal with. I also don't agree with the report's suggestion that a new hotel will make Monona Terrace vastly more profitable. The fact is there aren't that many large conferences around that would need that many hotel rooms and they can only come to Madison so many times. After being here 3 times in 11 years, it will be quite a while before we hold another conference here, maybe 10 years or more. We spread our conference around the US & Canada, and by repeatedly holding our conference in Madison other Midwest locations have been neglected. Locations with much better airline access in terms of number of flights and cost.

I agree with you, Snoqueen, that the conference business is not going to bounce back to what it once was. That's why the battle between cities to host conferences has increased. I get several emails, phone calls and direct mail pieces a week looking to get our business. Just today I received an email from Cincinnati and mail from Des Moines. Better technology and higher transportation costs/annoyances have led to fewer conferences overall. However, video and teleconferencing can't replace the face-to-face interactions and information sharing between conference attendees that is just as important as the technical presentations, plenary sessions and vendor booths. The fact is as professionals in our given fields, we learn as much from talking informally to other professionals during breaks, lunches and receptions as we do by listening to research presentations.
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