The Aransan Menace

Houston city officials couldn't bear to build a multimillion-dollar convention center hotel on Dallas Street. So they're renaming part of the street … the city plans to make the patch of pavement in front of the hotel part of nearby Lamar Street. "We don't need to give our competition any publicity," said Jordy Tollett, director of the city's Convention and Entertainment Facilities Department. -- Associated Press, March 20

Lamar, Texas, is perched on Lamar Peninsula, on the southern Gulf Coast, a few miles north of the causeway from Rockport, shielded from the Gulf of Mexico by Matagorda Island. Despite Mr. Tollett's laudable attempts to withhold free publicity from other Texas cities, Lamar shows every sign of posing a significant threat to Houston's anticipated convention windfall. Tourist dollars inevitably will begin eddying down the coast as thousands of conventioneers -- staying over at Houston's soon-to-be-shiny-new Hilton Americas at the corner of Avenida de las Americas and Lamar Street -- are stricken with mnemonic visions of a place they'd rather be, and a place they'll surely go next time.

Lamar fits the bill perfectly. For one thing, accessibility: It takes a chain of only two phone calls -- one to the Rockport/ Fulton Chamber of Commerce, a second to the Rockport mayor -- to secure the phone number of Jordy Tollett's strategic doppelgänger and unforeseen nemesis.

He's Larry Barnebey, the Aransas County commissioner whose precinct includes the unincorporated hamlet of Lamar.

"The neat thing," Barnebey admits, "is the setting": Goose Island State Park and St. Charles Bay to the east, Copano Bay to the west, Aransas Bay on the south side, Aransas National Wildlife Refuge to the north.

Lamar, Barnebey confirms, is an "oak-treed" coastal "community" of some 1,000 retirees and sportspersons, with "pristine fishing, trout and redfish, and lots of oyster shells, so you have to know your way around." It is also a place where the water is "literally clear, not like your Houston/ Galveston/High Island, all those places," he says. "It's green most of the time. Green or blue. It's not brown, or whatever other color that you have."

Birders come from miles around, at least, to observe whooping cranes, ducks and geese. Barnebey thinks Lamar is well poised to take advantage of the coming storm of publicity.

"Absolutely. There aren't any hotels or things like that in there, but there are cottages and weekenders and things like that."

Meanwhile, officials in both Dallas and Lamar praised Tollett's strategy.

Greg Elam, senior vice president of communications with Dallas's Convention and Visitors Bureau, says, "Of course you need to change it, because the name Dallas is synonymous with convention center success in Texas. Sure hope the name change doesn't bring bad luck your way."

Barnebey, who is also a real estate agent, suspects that the change will, in fact, bring good luck his way.

"I think it's an excellent choice by the city fathers to cause people to think of Lamar. All that hectic stuff going on downtown… We have a little slower way of life than Dallas Street. The thought of the Lamar community is very tranquil and calm: Let's go catch a redfish and drink a beer."


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