Grove City's visitor and convention bureau is planning a study to help determine if a new convention-meeting facility could ensure that visitors keep coming -- and staying -- in the community.
"Travel and tourism is a big reason why Grove City is thriving," said Amanda Davis, Visit Grove City's executive director. "The people who stay at our hotels don't just benefit the hotels. They are also spending money at our shops and at the amazing variety of restaurants we have here."
The proposed study would examine whether a convention-meeting space project is needed, desired and would be feasible for Grove City, she said.
"Before a project like this would even be considered, you need to get those questions answered," Davis said. "There's no reason to begin discussing a project that would not be warranted or accepted in your community."
Another question is whether a new convention-meeting venue could and should include amenities that Grove City residents could use, Davis said.
The general vision that would be studied is a concept of a venue that could accommodate meetings and events with up to 1,000 attendees, Davis said.
"A venue that size could accommodate groups that are too small for the convention center in Columbus, but are larger than our current facilities in Grove City could accommodate," she said.
Visit Grove City lists 15 meeting venues in Grove City. The largest room capacity at any of those is 400, with 10 of offering rooms with a maximum capacity of 200 or fewer.
Groups often express interest in holding a conference or event in Grove City, but must look elsewhere because there isn't a venue that meets their requirements, Davis said.
The organizers of a Japanese anime convention recently called the visitors bureau to inquire about holding their event in Grove City, Davis said. The group needed space to hold 500 to 600 and was unable to find a venue with that capacity in the city.
"There are people who want to bring their event to Grove City, but they can't," she said.
A larger meeting venue might provide the space they need and the hotels in Grove City would provide convenient places for attendees to stay, Davis said.
"You'd have to determine how it would be set up so that it would not conflict with the event spaces we have now, like the Aladdin Shrine Center and Pinnacle Events," Grove City Mayor Richard "Ike" Stage said.
Any venue that would be built would have to be shown as complementing and not supplanting existing meeting spaces, Davis said.
"We wouldn't want to take anything away from those venues," she said.
A convention-meeting facility could be a benefit for Grove City, if it was the right project, Stage said.
"There's no question it could be helpful, but who would pay for it and who would operate it is an issue," he said. "That's what I would be interested in hearing about."
Stage said he isn't sure a full-blown study is needed.
"I'm not sure that you couldn't have conversations with two or three consultants and find out all you need to know," he said.
Stage serves as a board member with the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority, which owns and operates the Greater Columbus Convention Center, the Hilton Columbus Downtown Hotel and Nationwide Arena.
While the cost of a project could vary greatly depending on the size and scope of the facility, a reasonable ballpark estimate would be about $275 per square foot for a meeting venue, Stage said.
Public financing of some sort might be needed for a project of the size and scope being discussed "because otherwise the finances would be so expensive," he said.
Davis said the study would help clarify a vision of the scope of a convention-meeting venue that would best serve the community.
An additional uncertainty the study might help to clarify is where there might be land available so a venue could be built or if an existing building could be retrofitted, she said.
Visit Grove City is looking to have a consultant engaged and ready to begin the study before the end of March, Davis said.
"We've been in talks with a firm but haven't finalized an agreement," she said.
The expected timeline for completing the study would be about three to four months, Davis said.
'We can't wait any longer to do this type of study," she said. "With all the hotels that are opening up around central Ohio, we need to be proactive and make sure we're considering how we can protect the hotels we have in our community."
Sixteen hotels are open in Grove City.
A combined Home2Suites and TRU by Hilton project under development by Hilton Hotels on the western end of Buckeye Place would add another 182 rooms and bring the total number of hotel rooms in Grove City to 1,606.
"We're not the only city where hotels are being built," Davis said.
"It's happening all over, in places like Westerville, Gahanna and Dublin. All of these hotels pose a potential threat to our hotels.
"We need to be proactive to consider how we can protect our hotels and make sure we aren't losing guests to other communities," she said.
Many guests who lodge in Grove City are attending conventions and meetings in downtown Columbus, Davis said.
"We have a great location, just a short drive to downtown, and you have free parking, lots of great amenities and plenty of restaurants," she said.
Visit Grove City also benefits from having local hotels as full as possible, Davis said.
Twenty-five percent of the city's bed tax is earmarked to fund the visitors bureau, she said.