Much To Like About Event Center Offer

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If you've ever tried to sit through a rodeo, pow wow or other daytime function at the Payson Event Center, you don't have to be told that the ultimate success of that facility rides on putting a roof over it.

If you follow local politics at all, you don't have to be told that the town isn't going to roof it -- not in your lifetime, anyway.

Riding to the rescue is a company called HSG (Hospitality Support Group). HSG wants to roof the arena as part of a project to build a much-needed convention center, with a cowboy-themed steakhouse, 150-room hotel and 1,000-seat amphitheater.

HSG Co-vice President Bruce Berres explained the concept to a packed house at town hall Monday evening, and darned if he didn't convince friend and foe alike that the project is not only viable, but that his outfit has the savvy to pull it off.

Berres himself was one of the principles who opened the Pointe resorts, and he came up with the concept for Rustler's Roost, one of the Valley's most successful cowboy-themed restaurants. HSG also is the outfit that built and operates the Prescott Resort next to Bucky's Casino.

There's a lot to like about HSG's proposal, including rooftop dining, and facilities for local events like proms and special church services.

But most important, Payson needs a modern meeting facility of decent size if we are ever going to become a travel destination. Prescott, Sedona and Flagstaff are already attracting a significant amount of group business to supplement their regular tourist trade -- a real boon during the off-seasons when the campers have gone away, not to mention those increasingly frequent times when the forest is closed due to fire danger.

Of course, the town has to put some money into the project. We will, after all, still operate the event center and the amphitheater.

The town also has to give HSG the tax and other incentives that make the project viable. We'll make it all up down the trail a ways.

And while water is an overriding concern, this is one development too important to the town's future not to make an exception. Besides, the water credits necessary to develop the 36-acre event center site were allocated long ago.

The town has been trying for years to get somebody interested in taking on the project. This is the first viable offer anyone has made.

The Tonto Apache Tribe also needs to buy into the project. If they don't, they're likely to find themselves outside looking in.

The town council should strike a deal with HSG to make this development a reality. If there's one thing we've learned from all those westerns, it's that when the good guy in the white hat arrives, you best thank your lucky stars and climb onto the back of his horse.

This is one project that's good for everybody.

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