OPINION | EDITORIAL: Hotel construction opens opportunities

We wondered if we'd ever read the story.

Back in 1988, Wilson World hotel was the first inn to take up residence next to the Pine Bluff Convention Center.

But over time, the hotel was cared for less and less, and eventually, the convention center found itself chained at the ankle to a dying -- and eventually dead -- hotel. At one point, a previous convention center manager closed the doorway between the city's property and what remained of the hotel because the hotel had gone so far down.

But, happy days are here again, it would seem.

Marriott Hotels, it was announced recently, will construct a new Courtyard by Marriott at the location.

Joseph McCorvey, executive director of the Civic Auditorium Complex Commission (CACC) and the Convention Center, has been keen to have a top-rated hotel located at the site. His enthusiasm is due to the fact that he sees many opportunities to book conventions at the convention center and is unable to secure the business because there is no hotel. No place to stay, no convention.

McCorvey said the Southwestern Athletic Conference, of which the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff is a member, and Great American Conference, which includes the University of Arkansas at Monticello, both went another direction when it came to hosting basketball tournaments at the convention center arena due to lack of nearby lodging.

And who can blame the organizers? Without looking very hard, they can find other cities that can accommodate their associations or organizations. Hot Springs and Little Rock come to mind.

"It will attract new businesses, because most of the associations we tried to attract to Pine Bluff, they would not come because of the current condition of the hotel," McCorvey was quoted as saying when the news broke. "It would help out tremendously and bring new jobs to the area, and of course, the taxes from the rooms would go to the A&P [city Advertising and Planning] Commission."

The hotel is expected to cost between $20 million and $22 million, an amount that will include tearing down the old eyesore.

Having a new 125-room hotel will dovetail with some improvement projects that are in the works for the downtown area. The hotel, McCorvey said, will take a year and a half or so to complete

CACC Chair Lisa Kosmitis congratulated commissioners for their work.

"We're getting there. It takes baby steps to make giant steps," she said. "I think that's where we're going right now."

Pine Bluff understands baby steps. And, indeed, little by little, those tiny steps are starting to make a difference as the downtown is starting to get its groove back.

Congratulations to McCorvey for finding a way to get this far. And good luck on getting the financing worked out and actually starting on the project. It will be very nice to see the old hotel gone and something new and shiny in its place. One has to believe that once we build it, they will come.