This is a guest blog post from reporter Derek Sheppard.
How would you like to see a convention center in Poulsbo?
Though it’s an idea that came up before, you won’t be attending any Leif Ericson lookalike conventions in Little Norway. Down the road, however, there may be convention space in the coming years. And maybe not.
This is the upshot from Wednesday night’s Economic Development Committee meeting at Poulsbo City Hall. Some in the Greater Pouslbo Chamber of Commerce had been inquiring about a potential convention space, and contacted Port Madison Enterprises in nearby Suquamish.
Port Madison Enterprises CEO Russell Steele was asked to update the city on plans for a convention center near the casino. His response was thoughtful, but measured, as is usually the case.
“I’d say long term that something we’re seriously considering,” he said. But considering and doing are very different. Serious pursuit of the idea is probably still a couple of years out, he said.
It was an opportunity to shed some light on how PME, the Suquamish Tribe’s business arm and one of the county’s largest private employers operates. Change, growth and development seem constant with PME in recent years, but it’s not willy nilly. Each year the PME board of directors drafts a plan, then seeks approval from the Tribal Council, which is akin to a city council. Rachel wrote about the current plan a while back.
Like any business, sometimes things come up that aren’t on the plan. For those of you following along, that would be PME’s purchase of the White Horse golf course in February.
White Horse is one of the main reasons PME isn’t looking at building convention space now. The focus there is to get a clubhouse built and making the course easier to play for average duffers. Or, as Steele joked, making the course “full of opportunities.”
The Clearwater Casino used to have a large convention space, but when PME bought Kiana Lodge it filled the space with 400 more slots and moved the convention biz down the road to Kiana. A convention space would allow the casino to host large gatherings and trade shows, and provide a larger indoor space for music performances.
A couple of years ago, Steele said, PME studied having a large space, but would need to revisit any studies because of the changing economic realities.
Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson wondered if the decline in convention business was solely related to the recession, or a larger trend because of the ease of Internet-based communication and collaboration.
“That’s why we have to revisit the analysis on that,” Steele said.
But Steele was quick to point out that talk about a convention space is just that right now. Talk.