Meriden officials propose banquet facility at Hunter golf course

Meriden officials propose banquet facility at Hunter golf course

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MERIDEN — A public hearing will be held Thursday for two capital projects city officials are proposing as a way to generate revenue and attract economic development. 

Officials want to build a new banquet hall at the city-owned Hunter Golf Club to replace the temporary tent where events are currently held during the warm weather.

The hall would hold about 150 and could be rented out for private events like weddings and parties. 

Officials are also proposing a project to build two new hangars at Meriden Markham Airport and replace three other aging hangars. The two new hangars will have a combined capacity of 16 airplanes. The airport has seen a demand for additional hangar space over the years, and there are currently 65 pilots on a waiting list to store their planes at the airport, City Manager Tim Coon said. 

A group of five City Council Democrats introduced two separate resolutions for the projects. The City Council’s Finance Committee will hold a hearing on the resolutions Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers of City Hall, 142 E. Main St. 

Officials who support the proposals are enthusiastic about the revenue they will generate.

“This is an opportunity for the city to establish a long-flowing stream of revenue,” Coon said.  

“We don't get the opportunity very often to invest in capital improvements that are revenue generators and pay for themselves. This is really a great opportunity,” said Democratic Councilor Brian Daniels, chairman of the Finance Committee. 

The city would need to bond about $800,000 for the banquet hall, but about half of that would come from a state Local Capital Improvement Program grant the city received in 2018. The facility is estimated to generate approximately $671,000 in revenue over the next 20 years from rental fees and other revenues. 

The airport upgrades would cost a total of $2.4 million, according to Coon. Over the next 17 years, it is estimated they will generate net revenue of $600,000, mostly from leasing the hangar spaces out. The city would need to bond both projects and would pay about 4 percent in interest. The project would not impact next year’s fiscal budget, Daniels said.  

“They also pay for themselves within the life of the bond,” Daniels said. “It doesn't cost anything for the city to do these projects.”

Midstate Chamber of Commerce President Sean Moore called the airport and golf course “two of Meriden’s greatest kept secrets.” 

“It’s time that we really invest in those facilities to max their opportunity,” Moore said. 

Daniels is optimistic the new facilities will attract more people and change their perception about Meriden. 

“You start getting people to say, ‘Wow, Meriden is a little different than I thought it was,’ ” Daniels said. 

The banquet facility will allow the golf course to host more golf tournaments and private functions during the cold weather season.

“We have lost tournaments where people have said, ‘I don’t want to sit in this tent,’” said Daniels, one of the City Council’s liaisons to the Golf Commission. 

Daniels said the facility would also leverage Meriden’s location in the middle of the state to attract more corporate functions. 

If the banquet hall is approved, it’s expected to be operated by Violi’s, the Italian Restaurant operated at the course. Violi’s lease with the city expires in October, and the city intends to negotiate a higher rate if the banquet hall is approved, generating more revenue, the resolution states. 

The resolution would authorize the city to form a committee to oversee designs of the banquet facility and put out a request for proposals for the project. Committee members would be appointed by the mayor and would include two city councilors, one member of the Golf Commission, one member from the Midstate Chamber of Commerce and the city manager, according to the resolution. 

Three aging hangers will also be demolished and replaced with similarly sized hangars, Coon said.
Twitter: @MatthewZabierek