TCU Daily Skiff Friday, April 23, 2004
Frog Fountain
Skiff page design
Texan to affect local economy
Fort Worth officials say it will be hard to compete with the hotel and convention center in Grapevine.

K.C. Jones

Only a year ago, the Fort Worth Convention Center reopened after spending $75 million on expansion and renovations. Now Gaylord Entertainment has invested around $500 million to create The Texan, a unique hotel and convention destination resort in Grapevine.

Michael Woody, director of marketing for the Grapevine Convention and Visitors Bureau, believes Gaylord Entertainment has put this part of the United States on a different map, one for those who need extensive meeting space and rooms and who usually look toward Chicago or San Diego.

“Because this is a very unique project, we are attracting groups that wouldn’t have considered DFW before,” Woody said. The new interest has resulted a July booking by the Gold Wing riders, Honda motorcycle riders who meet annually but have never considered this area before. Now they are bringing 16,000 people to this part of the country, Woody said.

Doug Harman, president and CEO of the Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau, realizes it will be hard to compete with The Texan for large meeting requirements because of the limited availability of hotel space in downtown Fort Worth.

Fort Worth’s Convention Center situation is quite different from the private corporate property development because it is a public facility. The rates are set by the city to charge an appropriate rental fee for the space. The limited surrounding hotel space is independently owned from the convention property. The Radisson, which is planning future renovations, and the Plaza, which has no financing for upgrading, are two of the largest and closest hotels that book for the convention center. The largest first class hotel downtown, The Worthington, offers 500 fully renovated rooms, but they will not book bulk space for the convention center.

“The Gaylord basically gives free convention space because the customers are staying at their property. That is very difficult to compete against,” Harman said.
Woody is excited about the Texan because of its uniqueness and Gaylord’s concern for the surrounding community.

“When Gaylord was looking for a site in Texas, they wanted a community they could become a part of and had a tie to history,” he said.

The people in Grapevine are committed to the historic district and that strong dedication has resulted in a prospering main street, which has been occupied since 1901. It has a small town feel yet offers six winery tasting rooms and a vintage railroad, Woody said.
Both Woody and Harman have positive expectations in regard to the economic impact on Grapevine and Tarrant County. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis Regional Input/Output system (RIMS) predicts the increase of revenue for the Metroplex should be $2.5 billion over the next 15 years due to the ripple effect of a property the size of The Texan.

Harman said he’s happy about the opportunity Grapevine has been given, but he doubts Fort Worth will benefit from The Texan because it is a self-contained, full-service destination resort.

“Tarrant County will see a small percent of tax revenue, but the retail profit isn’t likely to find its way to Fort Worth. That’s the way they designed it,” Harman said.

The luxury at The Texan is costly however, and business opportunities are bound to recycle back to Fort Worth especially for those paying their own travel bills, he said.
“Educational meetings that bring together educators are many times sensitive to price,” Harman said.

The daily rates in Fort Worth will be a cost-effective alternative to the rates and extra fees charged by a large resort, Harman said.

On the other hand, Fort Worth may lose some of the state association convention contracts that tend to rotate around the state. If these organizations choose The Texan for the Metroplex, it will be a while before they return to the area and give Fort Worth another chance, Harman said.

The Texan is patterned after Gaylord’s Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville. As gigantic as The Texan looks, dominating the Grapevine horizon, it is only one third the size of the Nashville property. Even so, expectations are high for businesses and enterpreneurs in Grapevine that the economic impact caused by Gaylord’s involvement in the area will expand over time.

Texas art gallery owner Rob Proehl is filling one of seven unique gift shop locations inside The Texan. Specializing in Texas artists, Rob and his wife Kathy have ran their art galleries, called Artiste for about ten years. The Grapevine location is their third store.
Proehl has previously visited the Nashville Opryland resort, so when he saw the opportunity to occupy a retail space in The Texan, he jumped on board.

“The Gaylord people really know what they are doing,” Proehl said. “It is a premiere place for meetings. And given the theme of the hotel and what we do, it’s a great fit.
“We think it’s a tremendous hotel and convention center. There is nothing like it in Texas,” Proehl said.

The Texan opened on April 2 with visits by the mayor of Grapevine, the CEO of Gaylord Entertainment Company and around 10 thousand people who came to see it. The hotel was sold out the entire weekend.

In the shadow of the gigantic resort, the Silver Lake Marina glistens on the water. Owner Steve Berry is optimistic about the economic impact the newly opened Texan will have on his business. He has invested in extra jet skis, is building a party boat and has pontoon boats ready for the growth expected in rentals. There is a convenience store and a seasonal burger stand, which reopens May 1. Berry is looking to fill many job openings created by the expected increase in tourism.

“College students make up most of my staff. The marina is a fun environment to work in and I hope to hire many more students soon,” Berry said. He will be employing cashiers, reservationists, gas attendants, and safety orientators, he said.

Having a mammoth first-class resort perched on the adjacent lake-front property has raised the bar for beautifying facades. Silver Lake Marina redesigned their entrance to dress it up with landscaping and an expensive sign, Berry said.

Workers agreed the expensive upgrade to the entrance is a direct result of trying to keep appearances up as a result of the Gaylord’s Texan development.



K.C. Jones/ Staff Photographer
The Texan (pictured above), Grapevine’s new hotel and convention center, is expected to attract business from around the nation.
 
credits
TCU Daily Skiff ©2004
news campus opinion sports features search awards skiff home advertising jobs back issues skiffTV image magazine converging news contact