Sunday, March 28, 1999

Riverboats would increase hotel space

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        When as many as 3 million people come to town for the Olympics, they all have to sleep someplace. That's where a city's hotels come into play.

        The eight counties that make up Greater Cincinnati have about 20,000 hotel rooms — not nearly enough to accommodate the crush of visitors the 2012 Summer Olympics would bring.

  These figures show how many hotel rooms exist in Greater Cincinnati and the cities in the region that could help host the 2012 Summer Games.
  Greater Cincinnati...20,048
  Greater Columbus..16,500
  Regional total.......82,906
  Source: Various convention and visitors bureaus
        That number grows to nearly 83,000 when the room supplies in Columbus, Dayton, Lexington, Louisville and Indianapolis are added.

        Because Olympic events would be spread over the region, that's the number organizers are expected to stress in their official bid, which is due to the United States Olympic Committee in little more than a year. The question is, would it be enough?

        “It's very difficult to predict the number because a lot has to do with how you stage the events,” said Nick Vehr, president of the local group trying to bring the games to town.

        He argues every U.S. city would have to find creative ways to house all the people an Olympics would bring. He already has one idea for increasing the number of visitor beds and highlighting Cincinnati's river heritage: riverboats.

        Mr. Vehr figures riverboats could sleep another 2,000 people. They also could become a “post card” for the U.S. Olympics, he said.

  These figures show the number of hotel rooms in the other cities and regions bidding for the 2012 Summer Games.
  Dallas (citywide) ....50,000
  Houston (citywide)....40,000
  L.A. (citywide)......93,000
  New York City.......62,500
  S.F./Bay Area..... 40,000
  Tampa/Central Fla... 137,000
  Wash./Baltimore.. 80,000
  Sources: Various convention and visitors bureaus, Olympic organizing committees and Enquirer research
        Still, several other cities vying for the 2012 Summer Games have this region beaten when it comes to hotels.

        By far, the Florida group bidding for the Olympics has the most available rooms, at 137,000. That number is projected to grow to more than 200,000 by 2012, said Ed Turanchik, president and chief executive officer of the organization trying to bring the games to Tampa, Orlando, St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Lakeland.

        “There's just a huge visitor infrastructure in central Florida,” he said. “You can build venues, but you can't build hotels.”

        Mr. Vehr agreed, but he thinks if Atlanta could do it, Cincinnati could, too. For the 1996 Summer Games, Atlanta boasted more than 55,000 hotel rooms within 55 miles of downtown.

        By 1997, there were nearly 67,000 rooms, according to the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, which credits the games for millions of dollars in renovations, refurbishments and additions to area hotels.

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- Riverboats would increase hotel space