City Leaders React to Convention Center Loss

May 1, 2006 – Posted at 6:12 p.m. CST

JONESBORO, AR -- Three million dollars worth of property at the corner of Race Street and Fair Park Boulevard will not be the address of a proposed 9-story, 220-room courtyard by Marriott Hotels or a convention center.

It was a proposal scheduled to go before voters on June 13th, but on Friday John Q. Hammons announced his intentions of pulling out of plans to construct a hotel and convention center in Jonesboro.

Hammons sent a letter to Mayor Doug Forman citing his disappointment in the actions and comments made by the Jonesboro City Council. Prepared to invest between $35,000,000 and $40,000,000, Hammons felt that his time, effort and money would be better spent in a community that has "worked though local issues."

"I don't represent John Q. Hammons. I represent John Q. Public, the citizens of Jonesboro, Arkansas. I believe that if we are going to spend $17 million dollars, that's the largest single investment that the city has ever even looked at putting into some proposal, then it should be up for public discussion and public debate," said councilman John Street.

Street says the city has more pressing building needs and felt there wasn't enough information about the issue. Businessman Wallace Fowler suggests the convention center "ship" may have already sailed.

"I think we may have them a little gun-shy now as to really whether we think we want one or need one," said Fowler, who served on the convention center finance planning committee.

"I think the response has been positive from people," said Street, "They felt like we did, that there wasn't enough information provided and everybody thinks we did a pretty good thing by bringing that to the front and demanding public debate."

"Who do I think is responsible? That's a tough question," remarked Fowler, "I do not want to point fingers at the council necessarily. They certainly had the right to ask any questions that hadn't been answered. I differ with them in that I thought the questions had been answered and certainly they had the opportunity when we had the one on one review with them and the attorneys three or four weeks ago...but, I don't know."

On Tuesday evening, the city council will likely bring up this issue for reconsideration and in the following meeting will vote to remove the election for the convention center along with the proposal for a new fire station.