WICHITA FALLS, Tx (RNN Texoma) - For over six months Wichita Falls has worked with Gatehouse Capital, architects, contractors, facility operators, and banks on a $30 million full-service Delta hotel by Marriott and a $7.6 million conference center next to the MPEC.
After months of waiting, Gatehouse Capital has a deal with Prosperity Bank to finance the hotel. There was a point where some city leaders thought this project was dead in the water.
The two sides were trying to get a loan from local banks. When that didn't work they tried a joint loan between local and non-local banks. It got to the point where they were trying any bank that would talk, but officials weren't going to give in if they didn't get the deal they wanted.
"The citizens entrust us with this taxpayer money," Mayor, Stephen Santellana said. "They entrust us with making good financial decisions. If at any point in time anybody on this staff didn't think it was going to be a good financial decision, we would step away from the project altogether."
The process has been a slow one that's left frustration.
"Every time we hear some positive news about the hotel project it's a relief," Deputy City Manager, Jim Dockery said.
The most frustrating part has been the financing. Getting a bank willing to give a loan that satisfies everyone.
"A couple of times we thought the project was dead in the water," Mayor Santellana said. "We thought maybe we would walk away. It's the developers and financial people who came through and said it's not dead in the water. There are always other avenues to take."
Mayor Santellana said the city would have walked away if the right deal didn't come along, but now it looks like one has.
"The project has to make sense on both sides," Mayor Santellana said. "I think we are there now. I think the risk and liability for the citizens is really low and that's where I wanted to keep it."
Dockery said nothing is signed yet, but he's hoping the stars are starting to line up.
"We still don't have a signed deal with the bank," Dockery said. "But we continue to discuss the terms and have weekly meetings or weekly conference calls to go over those issues."
"I'm really relieved as the Mayor that we're to this point right now and I'm just looking forward to the next six months," Mayor Santellana aid.
The city's financial part of the conference center and hotel is on next week's city council agenda for the third time. But officials will recommend that it be allowed to die, for now. Once Gatehouse's financing is final, the issue will be put back up for a vote.
Dockery said he's not getting his hopes up until a deal is signed on the dotted line. He and Mayor Santellana said the city has never worked on a project like this before and that's been part of the reason for caution along what has been a long and bumpy road.