HARLINGEN — The city’s biggest upscale hotel is finally rising.
About 20 months behind schedule, the project to build BC Lynd’s $25 million Hilton Garden Inn is now expected to be completed in July 2020.
Next to the new Harlingen Convention Center, construction crews yesterday were raising steel beams, building the five-story hotel’s first floor.
“It’s progressing well,” City Manager Dan Serna said yesterday. “The foundation pad has been poured and the walls are going up already.”
At City Hall, officials are counting on the 149-room select-service hotel to help book the convention center.
“We’re looking forward to the hotel being completed,” Serna said. “It will have a positive impact on the convention center.”
As part of a contract, BC Lynd agreed to build the hotel to be attached to city’s $16.7 million convention center, which opened in May at Teege and Harlingen Heights roads.
Original plans apparently called for the convention center and hotel to break ground about the same time.
While the convention center broke ground in August 2017, the hotel broke ground in early May.
Last November, Brandon Raney, BC Lynd’s chief executive officer, said he searched for the “right financing” to fund the hotel’s construction for 18 months.
BC Lynd’s hotel is critical to the convention center’s success.
Under an agreement, BC Lynd will operate and staff the convention center while splitting any profits or deficits with the city.
“The fact BC Lynd is operating the convention center is a huge advantage,” said Rex Warren, a former hotel executive who’s a member of the Harlingen Convention & Visitors Bureau’s advisory board. “They know how to market, operate and service. The fact that we have professional, experienced individuals is a huge advantage.”
Until the hotel project is completed, the convention center will apparently operate next to the construction site.
But so far, the hotel’s construction has not slowed down the convention center’s bookings, Serna said.
“We’re not realizing any negative impact,” he said.
Since it opened May 2, the convention center’s bookings have generated $88,000 in revenue, according to the facility’s June report.
“It’s doing even better than we anticipated,” Serna said. “We’re happy with the activity going on.”
This year, the convention center expects revenues of $351,325.
However, its operating budget projects a $323,289 deficit.
As city officials planned the convention center, they anticipated a deficit during the facility’s first two-year “ramp-up” period.
So as part of its budget, city officials included $500,000 to offset any deficits.
“It takes a while to ramp up,” Warren said. “You’ve got to become known in the market place as a destination.”
For months, BC Lynd has been marketing the facility to draw bookings, Assistant City Manager Gabriel Gonzalez said.
“The facility is brand new so that gives it a competitive edge,” Warren said. “The biggest advantage I see is it’s centrally located in the Valley. If I was having a regional convention, Harlingen is very centrally located so I could easily attract people from Brownsville and McAllen.”
So far, business conferences, weddings and quinceañeras have steadily booked the convention center, Tatiana Treviño, the facility’s sales event coordinator, said.
“July has really picked up,” Treviño said. “We’re expecting a lot of events in August as well.”
In November, she said, the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, the city’s biggest tourist draw, will book the facility along with a Comic-Con convention.
Hotel to draw revenue
Earlier this year, a consulting firm presented city officials with findings showing BC Lynd’s hotel will help boost revenue after what it described as the convention center’s “transition year.”
“The mix of business that can be generated by an independent facility is limited when compared to a facility that can offer the benefits of an attached hotel,” Thomas Hazinski, managing director with HVS Convention, Sports and Entertainment Facilities Consulting, wrote in a Feb. 19 letter.
“The operator will initially focus on generating events that do not require an adjacent hotel,” Hazinski wrote. “Once the (hotel) opens …, the hotel will be able to generate events that require an adjacent hotel.”
According to Hazinski, HVS conducted an earlier study showing the attached hotel would help boost the convention center’s revenues.
“In a previous study, HVS projected the demand for and financial operations of the (convention center) under the assumption that the (hotel) and (convention center) would open at the same time,” Hazinski wrote.