Samson Developers, headed by David Doss of Rome, has until early November to buy half the 4.4-acre city-owned tract between Barron Stadium and the Oostanaula River. That would also trigger an 18-month option on the remaining land.
Current plans call for Duke Hospitality, a Mariott-approved management company, to own and operate a five-story hotel with 105 to 120 rooms on the first site.
Floyd County Commissioner Garry Fricks said the hotelier has approached the county about modernizing The Forum and giving Duke control of the scheduling. The idea is to market the hotel and the publicly owned convention center together.
“They think tieing into The Forum will be integral to their success, and I think it would be successful for us both,” Fricks said.
The nearly 20-year-old facility would need some work, though, and Fricks said it’s a question of what’s financially feasible.
“Their thought is that changing the ‘gymnasium look’ to a conference center look is going to require some upgrading,” he said. “We’ve shared our numbers with them, and now we’re waiting for a proposal.”
Doss said there’s always been the assumption that a hotel of that size would include a working relationship with The Forum.
“It seems to be good business, and it would allow them to better market The Forum,” he said. “They could take a facility with a long history as a money-loser and bring it to at least the break-even point.”
It also would benefit other local hotels, Doss said, by expanding the type of conventions that would be interested in Rome.
Architects and builders for Duke examined The Forum last week to calculate what it would take to upgrade the look. Doss said the painted concrete block walls, utilitarian bathrooms and worn carpeting are issues.
“And the technology of the last 20 years has passed by the meeting rooms,” he noted. “It’s all pretty institutional — not the thing you’d associate with an upscale meeting facility.”
Doss said an agreement with the county is integral to the redevelopment plan.
“I don’t know that it’s a deal-breaker, but it certainly could have a significant impact,” he said.