MONTGOMERY, Alabama — Gov. Robert Bentley is halfway toward his goal of getting the Legislature to allow a private developer to operate a convention hotel on the beach at Gulf State Park.
The Alabama Senate voted 23-11 Tuesday night for a bill by Republican Sen. Trip Pittman of Daphne to permit the development of the only hotel in an Alabama state park that will be run by private enterprise. The bill now goes to the House for consideration.
Immediately after the vote, Bentley went to the Senate to thank members for their votes.
Bentley envisions a 300- to 350-room hotel and a conference center seating 1,000 to 1,500 people for dinner on the beach at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores. He wants it to lure conventions now going to the Florida Panhandle and Mississippi coast.
"If we get this through the House, we will have conventions in Alabama instead of Sandestin," Bentley said.
Pittman said the proposed facility would replace a smaller lodge and convention center ruined by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. That facility was owned and operated by the state park system. Efforts to build a replacement facility since then have been fought by the Perdido Beach Resort, a 347-room hotel in Orange Beach.
Bentley said he hopes to use money from the BP oil spill to build the facility and then lease it to a private developer to run. The bill gives him broad powers to seek proposals to operate the facility, and it provides for a lease of up to 70 years.
Opponents questioned whether the state should compete with private enterprise. Pittman said a hotel and convention complex would generate money to operate other state parks.