Construction on the 120-room Home2 Suites by Hilton and the 200 apartments attached to it across Second Street from the Owensboro Convention Center should begin in the spring.

And Matt Hayden, who's building the complex with Jack Wells, said the 10- to 12-story project should be ready to open in April 2021 -- if not sooner.

The new hotel is important for the continued growth of tourism in Owensboro, Hayden and Mark Calitri, president of the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said recently.

"In order to attract larger conventions, we have to have at least 350 rooms downtown," Hayden said. "The new hotel will take us to 389 -- 150 at the Hampton, 119 at the Holiday Inn and 120 at the Home2 Suites. That gives us a little cushion."

The new hotel will also bring the total number of hotel rooms in town to more than 1,500.

Mayor Tom Watson said, "The new hotel will be something to hang our hats on. It will create more convention business."

"The new downtown hotel will be transformative for Owensboro and adds another diamond in our crown," Calitri said. "The CVB sees the next few years as crucial for Owensboro as our market has already successfully absorbed the opening of two new hotels with no real decline in hotel occupancy. Our challenge is to be proactive and continue to aggressively pursue innovative ways to attract new visitors and sports and convention groups to fill the hotels."

Home2 Suites is an extended stay chain that has 350 locations with 445 more in the pipeline, according to its website.

Hayden said, "With the Hall of Fame adding more programming, more activities at the convention center and hopefully more at the RiverPark Center, downtown is tracking well."

But he said, "We need to concentrate on getting an indoor sports facility. It's amazing how many families are leaving the community every weekend for sports activities. That's money being lost to the community."

Winter, he said, is a slow time for hotels, "so we need more emphasis on an indoor facility."

Calitri agreed, "Summer months continue to show strong results, but if I must identify our true weakness that is holding back our market, it is the wintertime months because of the low demand. Owensboro’s greatest opportunity to fill hotel rooms and bring visitors to town is a new multipurpose indoor sports facility."

He said, "Parents in this community are loading up their kids and heading to other cities to spend their money. We must capture that opportunity here. Give our parents a chance to stay home and use their money to build our community."

Towne Square Mall?

Hayden, Wells and others recently bought Towne Square Mall to repurpose it with a combination of retail and other things.

Could an indoor sports facility be developed there?

"The mall is a site worth considering," Hayden said. "But it doesn't have to be on one of our properties."

Calitri said tourism is growing in Daviess County.

"We are continuing to see positive returns from the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum as they enter their second year of operation and build additional programming throughout the year," he said.

In April, he said, "the new John Wayne Experience will be unveiled at O.Z. Tyler Distillery. John Wayne is an international icon. You just can’t buy this type of national and international exposure with a legend like the Duke. Whiskey and cowboys are a natural fit to promote."

Dave Kirk, the CVB's Destination Management director, said, “Distilleries are popping up all over the United States, so you must have a unique reason for a guest to visit one distillery over another. The leadership team at O.Z Tyler continues to innovate and create positive demand for leisure travel. Their visitor numbers are rising, and we will see record growth in 2020 with their exciting changes."

"Filling the new hotel will largely depend on increasing the number of conventions and room-night producing events at the convention center," Calitri said. "This is our largest and most effective tool to generate an economic impact to the Owensboro tourism economy. Laura Alexander and her sales team continue to work closely with the CVB to pursue new profitable business. Convention bookings are, in fact, climbing and we are looking at record-breaking years in 2021, 2022 and 2023."

Jared Bratcher, the CVB's sports marketing director, said, "We still have untapped potential for additional indoor travel sports. A state-of-the-art indoor facility is crucial to recruiting those off-season, low-demand-time events that will fill the additional hotels."

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301, klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

(1) comment

Mark Calitri

The Owensboro downtown continues to draw positive attention from developers-Mark Calitri

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