Convention Hotel Bill Passes House

(KCPW News) Last year, a plan to bring a convention center hotel to downtown Salt Lake City was narrowly defeated in the Utah legislature. This year, it’s a step closer to reality.

House Bill 356, which lays the groundwork for building a new facility near the Salt Palace Convention Center, passed the Utah House of Representatives on Tuesday by a 53-21 vote—a vast improvement from the 39-35 vote against the hotel proposal in 2013.

Republican Rep. Brad Wilson, the sponsor of the bill, talked about the ever-increasing need to expand Salt Lake’s convention capacity, in order to keep conventions coming in and to attract new ones.

“We lack adequate convention space to hold these big shows, and we lack a hotel attached to that additional convention space. We’re just not quite big enough at the Salt Palace,” Wilson said.

One of the key differences between this year’s bill and last year’s is a new “Bounce Back” program, which would give visitors to the new convention hotel a voucher to return to another hotel in the state of Utah.

Wilson explained the idea’s rationale:

“Our tourism industry is growing so much faster than other states because of what we have to offer here. We think this is just going to be kind of more gas in the gas tank to help it grow even more.”

There’s also a “Stay Another Day” program, which would encourage convention goers to extend their stay, and a mitigation fund for hotels in the convention center’s surrounding area, which would reimburse those hotels for the first few years of the new hotel’s operation for lost business.

House Speaker Becky Lockhart is the co-sponsor to HB 356.