By Hailey Persinger

Fort Hood Herald

A group of Central Texas hotel owners are planning to request that a Fort Hood shooting memorial be placed in downtown Killeen instead of the site city officials and donors are planning.

The Tri-City Lodgers Association, led by Bill Stoinoff, general manager of the Hilton Garden Inn in Killeen, is drafting a letter to the city of Killeen in protest of the location of the Fort Hood Living Memorial Garden.

Plans for the memorial include the planting of trees between the Killeen Civic and Conference Center and the Shilo Inn on W.S. Young Drive.

Though the group is not opposed to the memorial itself, Stoinoff said in a recorded message that it would better serve the city of Killeen if it was placed downtown.

"The hotel association's status is that it should be part of beautifying downtown Killeen rather than being out here where it's not going to help the city of Killeen a whole lot," Stoinoff said. "They're talking about beautifying downtown Killeen; that'd be an opportunity to do that."

But Conference Center director Connie Kuehl said that changing the location is basically impossible. SPJST, a fraternal organization with chapters nationwide, proposed the memorial and the location to the city. A site change would throw off funding the group has already raised and disappoint those already counting on the project, she said.

"They thought about what a perfect place it would be because of so many military functions that we hold (at the Conference Center)," she said. "There's just tons of folks from the military that participate here in events."

Kuehl also said she's received feedback from one of the shooting victim's family members, who wrote that she would undoubtedly make a trip from Dallas to see the memorial once it's complete.

But Stoinoff said the Lodgers Association's letter will maintain that the Conference Center is typically a place for "local people" to hold events - not for tourists to see what Killeen offers. Moving the memorial downtown would beautify the area that the city is looking to redevelop.

Moving the memorial downtown would be a costly endeavor given the amount of space needed and the price of downtown property, Kuehl said.

"I was very surprised that they wouldn't want it here. There's no land in ... downtown," Kuehl said. "It's not practical. At this point, my special events committee has agreed to the concept and we're working through all that."

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