The Ellis County Coalition for Economic Development has met recently with local bankers and, should the Hays City Commission approve funding, officials believe work on a new convention center in Hays could begin this summer.
The 20,000-square-foot facility, which is designed to hold approximately 500 participants, is planned just south of Holiday Inn Express on Vine Street.
Funding for the facility would require a pair of tax increases — a 2 percent increase in the city’s hotel-motel tax and a 0.65 sales tax increase for businesses in a new commercial improvement district, according to coalition Executive Director Aaron White. The most recent estimates put the facility in the $8 million range.
The new CID, which would sunset after the debt was paid off, would include most of the businesses expected to benefit from convention center traffic, including retail, lodging and food establishments.
The fine details on the application for the CID are being completed now, and White said he expects to be visiting businesses in the area for formal signatures on the CID petition this month.
He hopes to have the finalized proposal, coupling the CID and the bed tax increase, in the hands of city staff and commissioners by the end of April.
“We’ll present them together,” White said. “Without one, the other one doesn’t work anyway. We need to have them both passed or we can’t move forward.”
Should the commission approve the tax increases, dirt work at the site could begin as soon as this summer. Contractors expect approximately a nine-month build on the center.
The center would be owned by a nonprofit created by the coalition, and operated by Fort Hays State University. That operational agreement is also in the process of being finalized, White said. North Central Kansas Technical College has proposed using the convention center kitchen as a learning lab for a new culinary arts program.
White said recent meetings with local banks show strong interest in helping finance the project.
“Our goal would be to fund the project completely through local entities,” he said. “We definitely have the interest locally to do that.”