Hotel proposes new Dyes Inlet convnetion center

"The owners of the WestCoast Silverdale Hotel are testing the waters for possible construction of a convention center on 1.5 acres of land they own immediately east of the hotel.Hotel general manager Kevin Wojcik has been gathering input on the subject from several local agencies, including the Kitsap Public Facilities District (PFD), the Kitsap Peninsula Visitor and Convention Bureau and the Central Kitsap Community Council.The response has been overwhelmingly supportive - it sounds like there's a real need for meeting space, Wojcik said.Hank Mann-Sykes, a member of the Central Kitsap Community Council, thinks the proposed center would be a boon to local business.It would act as a bridge between the mall and the downtown, Mann-Sykes said. Hopefully conventioneers would go to Old Town and the mall and spend lots of money at local businesses. I think it's a win-win situation. Wojcik stressed the plan is in its fledgling stages, but added WestCoast Hotels would be willing to offer the land to a group which would finance construction. Details on the proposal - such as size of the facility and possible environmental impact - haven't been hashed out, Wojcik said.When completed, the building would be run as a public/private partnership, similar to a convention center in Wenatchee. There, the convention center is owned by the county, and the WestCoast Hotels chain has a contract to operate it.As is, the hotel would absorb the costs of staffing and cleaning, he said.PFD Chairman Rick Smith expressed enthusiasm for the project and said his group intends to follow up on Wojcik's inquiry.The Public Facilities District is authorized to use its funds to build a center. We're definitely interested, but we need more input. We will try to schedule a meeting in the coming months to take the topic up, said Smith, a Silverdale attorney.The only facility already operating in Kitsap that could serve as a convention center is the Kitsap County Fairgrounds Pavilion. But Smith the location of the Pavilion is inconvenient for convention activities, because the Fairgrounds area lacks facilities like hotels and restaurants. The Pavilion also lacks 'breakout rooms,' or rooms used when conventions break up into smaller discussion groups.Wojcik agreed the Fairgrounds location is not ideal, and said he thinks a location closer to Silverdale would be preferable.One of the keys is having a hotel nearby, he said. Instead of starting from scratch and trying to attract a new hotel it seems easier to put it on vacant space next to an existing structure.Another advantage of the Bucklin Hill Road location is its view of Dyes Inlet.When I talked to Kevin, I went into his office and I was struck by the gorgeous view of the inlet, Smith said. You would have the same view from the convention center - that would be a real advantage.Wojcik said he envisions a pedestrian path which would connect the Old Mill site park-to-be, cut across the hotel property and head into Old Town.It seems natural to tie it all together and to have a walkway that goes through there, Wojcik said. The center also could provide parking for the Old Mill site, he said. The unanswered question is whether the region could attract enough events to make the center worthwhile. Mann-Sykes, co-chair of the community council's Community and Government Affairs Committee, thinks business drawn from the county alone would almost be enough. Kathleen Hogan, tourism manager for the Kitsap Peninsula Visitor and Convention Bureau, also was confident the area has enough to offer.Silverdale/Kitsap is away from the hustle and bustle of the city, hotel rooms cost less here and we have 236 miles of saltwater shoreline. It's a less expensive place to put on a convention than Seattle and it's beautiful, Hogan said. "

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