A Love/Hate Relationship With The City: Louisville’s hotel gamble, Humana’s future

Ah. Glad I caught you here. I’ve got a question for you.

If it’s about borrowing any of my hard-earned wedge, the answer is no. And I don’t see why you’d ask me a question when all you’re going to do is disagree with my answer.

Well, that’s what LEO pays us the big bucks for. Anyway, you’re a man of modest local knowledge and massive local opinion. I was wondering what the hell Louisville is going to do with all these new hotel rooms.

Considering there’s only been one halfway-decent large hotel built in this city since Happy Chandler was governor, they’re about to start sprouting up like a plague of cicadas. However, the answer as to why they are being built is so straightforward a village idiot could work it out.

Which is why I asked one. But by my own back-of-the-fag packet calculations, we have, or are going to have, over 1,500 new hotel rooms. I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure there’s nothing new happening here that might fill those rooms up. It seems like the hotel trade is banking on the “Field of Dreams” theory — if you build it, they will come.

“Might be wrong”? I’ll take that as a given. Look, it doesn’t take a genius to understand that Louisville’s hotel scene is more in need of a facelift than Garrison Keillor. It’s part of an ongoing process to put this city on the front foot. When the Convention Center is reincarnated and back in the market, we’ll be able to compete with the likes of Atlanta, Nashville and Indianapolis for prestige events. It’s not rocket science.

My concern, which obviously needs to be spelled out, is that the developers behind these projects don’t have time to wait until the business comes to them. We already have YUM! sending its top executives to Dallas, and it looks likely that Humana’s will head to Connecticut. And then we could end up stuck with a bunch of high-end hotels that can’t find anyone to stay in them outside of Derby week. What then?

It’s putting the horse before the cart, which is the correct way around. You can’t attract commerce to a city without having enough pukka hotel rooms for executives to stay in. Nobody’s going to move a business to Louisville if the only place with rooms available is the Economy Inn. There’s no way to revamp downtown if nobody is willing to make that early commitment.

You’ll have to forgive me for not sharing your confidence, and it’s not like there aren’t any decent hotels here already. There are. The current building frenzy strikes me as being a bit over the top. Build one at a time, fine, but all of our hotel eggs are in the same basket. Louisville needs more than a lick of paint to start bringing business in. Your support baffles me.

What you fail to understand about me is that when it comes to Louisville, I’m not a hater … I’m a lover. The things you love the most have the greatest ability to let you down, a sentiment I’m sure your parents know only too well. I want this city to be its best, and on the rare occasion that it actually goes balls-out for something, I’m inclined to support it wholeheartedly, despite the possible risks.

But what about our looming commercial crisis? If Humana and YUM! disappear, that leaves us with Brown Forman and UPS, and this isn’t even UPS’ home town. 

Humana’s not going anywhere. The Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice have grown a pair over the last few years. The bookies and the markets, essentially the same thing, are increasingly betting on the deal not happening. It might piss off a few rich Humana shareholders, but it’d be brilliant for Louisville.

Oh, Warren Buffett are we now? The real money is still very much on the deal happening, and when it does, it’s only a matter of time before the big jobs head to Connecticut, while the worker drones stay here. And not many of them will require a $300-a-night hotel room.

What Louisville has that Connecticut lacks is a decent supply of relatively low-cost commercial real estate. Whether it gets blocked or not, it’ll be full steam ahead for Humana and Louisville.

At least until Trump becomes dictator for life, right?

If that shitgibbon wins the election, I’ll consider that a reasonable and long overdue reckoning for 1776.