In September, The Daily News argued that if the city were going to build a new facility at Stewart Beach, it shouldn’t go cheap because in tourist towns, appearances are everything.

The Daily News argued the Park Board of Trustees, which oversees tourism in Galveston, had an opportunity to make an important investment in a new 71,000-square-foot pavilion at Stewart Beach to replace the deteriorated, obsolete 51,000-square-foot building there now.

The park board had, at the time, predicted a new pavilion at Stewart Beach could, after five years of operation, bring in between $2.1 million and $2.5 million in yearly revenue, compared with $1.3 million from the existing building.

But that new building might also cost $25 million to build. Kelly de Schaun, park board executive director, pointed out that the $25 million came from fulfilling a lengthy wish list and that the price might be less.

Still, any number in that neighborhood would be a lot of money.

The Daily News argued at the time that while frugality with public money is a virtue, when taken to the extreme it could also have the opposite effect of what’s intended, costing the city millions in tourism-generated dollars.

But as the discussions surrounding the project progress, it’s clear there’s little agreement whether a new public facility at Stewart Beach would attract tourists, who are increasingly traveling to the island’s West End. Some city council members worry an expensive pavilion won’t attract more visitors.

But it’s also clear that doing nothing is a bad idea. The park board argues the pavilion is 10 years past its expiration date and an inefficient place to run beach operations. That’s not a trifling concern.

The building’s design has led to inefficient uses of space that create complications. The original building, a night club, wasn’t designed to house park board facilities. The park board spends about $70,000 yearly to maintain the existing facility, a cost officials estimate would come down with newer materials and modern beach-adapted technology.

The city council has expressed little enthusiasm in investing in a new facility, and is more focused on fixing drainage problems at Stewart Beach. And the city council, including Mayor Jim Yarbrough, isn’t convinced a new facility would attract more tourists. But is it a vicious cycle? Can part of the reason Stewart Beach is attracting fewer tourists be attributed to the shabby condition of the pavilion? Would investing many millions of dollars in a new facility have a true return on investment in public money?

Is there a compromise in there? Certainly, the city could invest in making the building more efficient for the Beach Patrol, a vital operation in Galveston.

Much is unclear, and there are many questions that need answers before sinking that kind of public money into a new facility.

The Daily News still argues that if the public invests in a new facility, it shouldn’t be so much on the cheap side that in another 15 years we’ll be talking about this again.

What is clear is that the public is going to need some hard proof of return on investment before more money is spent on design and plans.

• Laura Elder

 Laura Elder: 409-683-5248; laura.elder@galvnews.com

Managing Editor

(8) comments

Jarvis Buckley

Nice article- park Board fighting a losing battle trying to get city leader to agree with 25 million dollar price tag. Just simply too much taxpayer money. First thing develop a maintance plan.
Also what's going to happen to existing structure? Gonna rehab it for Maintenance Dept. & Beach patrol headquarters or demolish it?

Rusty Schroeder

I like how no mention of offices for the Park Board and employees were skimmed over and instead Beach Patrol operations were used instead. Kelly de Schauns "extensive wish list" is what is at the core of dispute. I am sure Laura is in support of her friend's Taj Mahal and new office setting on the beach, as the voice of GCDN. Who are the voices at GCDN ? Is it Leonard, Michael, and Laura, or do they hold a vote of all the employees? I think anyone who reads this paper online or in print knows that answer. A nice new conference room and a luxury office would be so much nicer to hold brunches and interviews from, I am sure of that. But that is not in the best interests of Galveston's taxpayers, and in truth, the majority of visitors and tourists. There is a real list of issues the Park Board needs to address since Ike, but yet 10 years later we are debating a wish list for a "pavilion" on Stewart Beach. Wait a minute, what about Beach Pocket Park #2 and the Frank Carmona Pavilion, how is that progressing ? If that is not worth repairing because it is on the beach, why would you spend $25 million on another one on the beach? Think of the taxpayer Parks Board and GCDN, not opinions of those that benefit from fancy new digs or have no skin in the game. Fix what you have before you ask for more, pretty simple management plan. I know this guy that always used this phrase about government spending, " pay as you go ", I bet he still thinks the same,,,,, and is mentioned in this editorial. Have a Great Weekend and Happy New Year to ALL. :)

Don Schlessinger

Taj Mahal, I like that.

Jarvis Buckley

I'm all for improvements to our beaches Biloxi ms. Has beautiful pavilion on beach . Beautiful cross overs . Seawall parking reminds folks of sporting event sea wall is littered with signs & meters . Not very attractive . Leaders are worried about Broadway , downtown lighting , spending for multi million dollar park Board complex "on the beach".
Meanwhile one rain storm downtown floods. Everyone needs to pull in same direction. Just my thoughts....

Jarvis Buckley

I very seldom if ever disagree with Laura . But from my perspective. For what it's worth if Laura supports 25 million structure on the beach. I think she's making a mistake. The present
Structure could be renovated probably first rate for under five million. City of Galveston just has too many needs SL & staff left this
Administration to take care of.Just my opinion, for what it's worth.

David Schuler

Still makes absolutely no sense to concentrate Beach Patrol operations and equipment in a location they would have to abandon during and possibly long after a hurricane.

Gonzalo Gonzalez

You know a project is deeply in trouble when you have to resort to an emotional argument for justifying it.

So the only thing I have heard is emotional argument.

First, we had the I-45 BS Myth that those in charge were trying to sell us. The only mythology about I-45 that I know of are the list of unsolved murders that have taken place along its path.

Second, Maureen Patton was quoted as justifying this project because "it feeds our soul"!! Seriously?!?! My soul like the rest of my body has had plenty to eat lately.

Finally, this article starts to talk about the reality. We need cold hard numbers to justify what appears to many to be a boondoggle.

Although, as I pointed out earlier there may be no numbers to justify this project and it may in fact be a big wish list for those who use this facility and resume padder for those promoting it.

Miceal O'Laochdha

The newspaper drove a spike through the heart of this "legacy monument" for the current director of the Park Board when it published the justification article listing the ridiculous staff complaints intended to justify this incredible expenditure of taxpayer money. It is the equivalent of having the A/C breakdown at your house, your wrought iron fence is rusting, and the other people you live with make too much noise. What is the solution? Tear down your house and build a new one 10 times larger/better and get your neighbors to pay for it. How much did we pay when the Park Board acquired their present headquarters that, unfortunately, does not provide them with a sea view? We pay for a maintenance and managerial staff to maintain and repair our assets. Do it.

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