LOUISVILLE — The Kentucky State Fair Board is seeking proposals for a luxury hotel they say would lure more large conventions and trade shows to the state fairgrounds area.
Fair board president Harold Workman told The Courier-Journal he thinks the economy is righting itself enough that the $100 million project would be feasible.
The board sent requests to 30 hotel-development companies asking for a minimum of 600 rooms and full-service amenities. The hotel would be near Gate One and serve as a headquarters for trade shows and conventions. It would have an elevated walkway connecting it to the fairgrounds' South Wing exhibit complex.
Officials at the fairgrounds say they've lost at least one convention and one trade show because of the lack of a hotel.
"We lost the Pumper Cleaner Expo (a trade show for environmental service professionals) due to no hotel at Gate One, and we had a signed contract for Memorial Day weekend 2013 with NAFSA (a youth convention with 20,000 people) which canceled the contract due to lack of a convention hotel at Gate One," said Linda Edwards, the fair board's vice president of sales and marketing.
Edwards said "many large conventions continue to request an adjoining convention hotel, including the FFA and Skills USA, because their attendees have to stay farther out without one."
Workman said the fair board set a March 21 deadline for proposals and hopes to get at least five. He said the earliest that a new luxury hotel could open is mid-2014.
It is the third time the fair board considered the move, but it shelved the idea in 2006 and 2007 because of economic concerns.
Fair board spokeswoman Amanda Storment said there are about 12 hotels that offer almost 2,500 rooms near the Exposition Center.
Hotel occupancy rates have been at just under 60 percent during the past two years, but the city needs more luxury rooms, according to Jim Wood, president of the Greater Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau.
He said Louisville competes with Nashville and Indianapolis for tourism and convention business, and both of those cities have full-service hotels connected to their major convention facilities by pedways.
Workman said a committee would review responses and choose a top respondent. After that, a lease deal would need to be negotiated before construction could begin.