Last year we added an event planner/ convention coordinator to the CVB staff and she's been great assistance in getting the word out and attracting new groups to town. But as anyone in this business will tell you, it’s frustrating to lose out on bid simply because the facility you need is not available.
One such case almost occurred in 2011 when we hosted Biking Across Kansas for an overnight stop. There were 800+ cyclists and their support crew in town for one night each buying lunch, dinner and breakfast, many staying in hotels and stocking up at local stores. It’s tough to measure the economic impact of groups like this but conservative estimates would put the BAK stopover at $40,000. Finding a facility that could accommodate the cyclists was the real challenge. Both colleges were not interested and following the example of other towns that host BAK, I put in requests to the school district to use the high school. At first we were told air conditioning would not be on in early June at the schools per an agreement with BPU. After some checking I found out the AC really wouldn’t be turned off until July. The administration told us we couldn’t use the Roundhouse because volleyball practice was scheduled in the morning but we could use the middle school. Everything seemed to be working out but since the middle school was having its HVAC system redone, the area we could use kept shrinking until it became unfeasible. So after much begging and pleading and some intercession by the mayor it was agreed we could use the high school after all.
Since then I’ve racked my brain trying to figure out how to make relations with the school district go more smoothly. The truth is there has to be a spirit of cooperation present by all parties and a desire to see the community as a whole succeed. While I can understand that students are the priority for school administration, they need to realize the value of being flexible with scheduling. The truth of the matter is all school facilities are built with taxpayer money and when an opportunity to help the community economically comes along, the district should show more cooperation.
We are currently bidding on another conference for 2013 that would bring between 600 and 800 people to town plus their spouses for a three-day barbershop quartet convention. While many may come for just a day, past attendance shows 250 hotel rooms have been booked. This could mean close to $80,000 pumped into the McPherson community for meals and hotel alone. Hopefully we’ll entice many of them to our local retailers to do some shopping too.
But again we are faced with the challenge of finding appropriate facilities. The group needs an auditorium that will seat 800 people which limits it to McPherson College or the high school auditorium. To be able to use the high school we asked them to schedule prom on the same day as the ACT next spring. It’s not ideal but it’s been done before. Unfortunately, our request was denied and here we sit with a golden egg and nowhere to hatch it.