Event Center Hotel Faces Money Crunch

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Developers of a long-awaited convention hotel next door to the rodeo grounds last week asked Payson for another year to seek financing, after a major investor backed out.

"Our enthusiasm for the project is still as high as ever, but the impact of the national financial crisis is hitting everybody in lots of different areas," said Bruce Berres, president of Valley-based Hospitality Support Group.

The Town Council had previously approved a free, 15-year lease of 11 acres of town-owned land for the proposed 150-room Hilton Hotel, with 10,000 square feet of meeting space to host conventions and events.

The proposed hotel was supposed to coordinate bookings and events with the hotel at the casino owned by the Tonto Apache Tribe, finally giving Payson the rooms and meeting space needed to attract conventions and events to interject a crucial, mid-week economic boost to the town.

However, a key investor who had committed a "significant" amount of money withdrew that offer, forcing the backers to cast about for other investors, said Berres.

The developer was required by the terms of the lease to prove he had financing lined up before May 1, which prompted the letter asking for more time. The developers want an extra year to line up new financing.

"We've lost no enthusiasm at all -- although I'll tell you that business is down everywhere, including in Payson hotels and that doesn't help."

The town council will address the issue at a future meeting.

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