EVANSVILLE -- Downtown Evansville now has a convention hotel for the first time since 2009.

The Evansville Courier & Press reported that a few hundred people gathered to celebrate the Hilton DoubleTree's opening Tuesday. Local taxpayers helped fund the five-floor, $61 million hotel, which has more than 240 rooms, an event room, a restaurant and a bar.

The Evansville City Council approved a bond not to exceed $20 million, while Vanderburgh County and the Convention & Visitors Bureau gave a total of $3.5 million. The building's other investors are Old National Bank and development company HCW Evansville.

The hotel's property taxes will go into a Downtown Tax Increment Financing District, which is to retire the city's bonds.

Local resident Jim Evans said it's an impressive building for the size of the community.

"It would have been nice if it was bigger and more rooms, but it's absolutely an asset," Evans said. "I think it will be a nice draw for conventions and groups from outside. As we've traveled around, it's equal to what we've seen in other communities."

Evansville Convention & Visitors Bureau Director Bob Warren said the hotel's opening will allow Evansville to host an Indiana Association of Cities and Towns conference and a Theatre on Ice national competition later this year.

"It's a great day for our market," Warren said.

"We're in the business of selling, and now we have a product to sell ... We're building a robust downtown."

Mayor Lloyd Winnecke initially pushed for a larger hotel, but the project had to be downsized and redesigned when the financing model for the larger version didn't hold up.

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