(This NewsLanc article appeared in 2006)
In a stunning development that could have substantial consequences for the proposed Mariott Hotel/Convention Center development, an email has surfaced from a senior PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) analyst, which says that because of the drastic changes in the nature and scope of the project, the powerhouse accounting firm asked that the board’s Executive Director, David Hixson, remove all reference to PwC from its website.
“I am very concerned that the project before us does not match the project PriceWaterhouse analyzed,” said Laura Douglas, an LCCCA board member. “This forces the issue that what is critically needed is thorough feasibility study of the project as it now stands.”
“This is grave matter,” said another LCCCA board member who requested anonymity. “This could affect the bond issue.”
Board member, Deb Hall, said if Mr. Hixson did receive the note from Mr. Canton at Pricewaterhouse, and Hixson continued to use earlier Pricewaterhouse reports in its promotions, then it confirms her concerns about the “board’s inability to conform to standard business practices.”
She added, “At this point, I’m hesitant to spend more money, but if the project goes forward we need a feasibility study to see if it makes sense.”
The email, which first appeared on 5thEstate.com, shows Robert Canton, Director PricewaterhouseCoopers Sports, Convention & Tourism Services, voicing serious professional concerns about the feasibility of proposed project.
Canton writes: “In March of this year, I was so concerned that [PriceWaterhouse Cooper’s] analyses (demand study, economic impact, etc.) of a different building program were being used to ‘promote’ the proposed convention center development, that I wrote a note to Mr. Hixson requesting that all reference to PwC be removed from the LCCCA website.”
The memo also includes: “Regardless of any review of our prior studies, the physical characteristics of the development that I understand to be proposed are VERY different from the project I studied (the equivalent of using a study of a 500 room Marriott to evaluate a 300-room Hampton).”
Canton concludes the memo by stating: “…I try to be very clear that we will not be influenced by what the client or community stakeholders ‘want,’ but rather will base our findings on what the market supports.”
The LCCCA is under pressure from several board members, community leaders, and concerned citizens to conduct a thorough feasibility study on the proposed $137 million project. Thus far, board chairman Ted Darcus has dismissed these requests.