The Woodward News

Local News

August 17, 2012

Conference Center stays busy with more events

Woodward, Okla. — The Woodward Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) is working hard to keep the new conference center booked.

During the CVB's monthly board meeting Thursday afternoon, CVB Executive Director Jim Curtiss announced that the conference center is on track to host almost 100 events this year.

"The city said if you book 18 events in the first year, we'll be happy.  Right now we have 95 events booked since we opened in March through the end of the year.  That means we're into our second year, almost our third year projection," Curtiss said.

In it's first few months of operation, he said the center has hosted around 55 different events, from weddings and quinceneras to association meetings to big conferences like the recent Tri-State Oil and Gas Convention (TSOGC).

The oil and gas conference, which was held just last week, was quite a success, Curtiss said.  "We were able to exceed people's expectations," he said.

His fellow CVB staff members and the CVB board members agreed.

"We received an incredible number of accolades," said Jennifer Newton, CVB event coordinator.  "We also had several people say they were interest in booking the center for future events."

"People were just blown away by the quality of the show," CVB Director of Tourism Debbie Hickman said.

CVB Board Member Dwight Hughes said he could tell from the comments he heard about the conference.

"Among the comments I got was from people who go to a lot of shows and they'll ask questions and nobody knows," Hughes said.  "But here, they said no matter who they asked that person either had the answer or knew where to go to find it.  That says a lot and is a compliment because it was comparing us to other shows."

Of course the first big conference at the center did reveal a few areas that need improvement.  This included issues with video projection, so that event speakers can be broadcasted on large side screens within the exhibit hall, and a lack of street signage, which would have helped attendees traveling from local hotels find the center.

However, the CVB staff said they were working on correcting these issues to create an even better experience for when the Tri-State Oil and Gas Convention comes back next year as Curtiss said the TSOGC group has already agreed to have its 2nd annual show at the conference center in August 2013.

But more than making sure the shiny new conference center is getting used, by booking so many events, the CVB is generating revenue.

"Now there are certain events we don't charge (to host events at the conference center).  They are those events that are beneficial to the whole community, where the public can come for free," Curtiss said.  "But out of the 95 events this year, there were only 8 events where we didn't charge."

The other 87 events are generating almost $90,000 in revenue from user fees of the conference center alone, he said. That doesn't include additional revenue from retail and restaurant sales associated with any of the events or even hotel-motel tax revenue, which is up, he said.

A financial report presented to the CVB board showed that hotel/motel tax collections were over $80,000 in both May and June of this year, compared to collections of around $60,000 to $70,000 earlier this year.

If those increases continue, Curtiss said the CVB will be able to increase its cash reserves.

"We had approximately $256,000 in our cash reserves at the end of the Fiscal Year in June," he said.  "If we can maintain this pace (of current hotel/motel tax revenue) through 2012 and 2013, we can see adding another $100,000 to $150,000 in reserves.  That would put us at $400,00, which is approximately half of our regular budget.  That would put us in good shape and allow us to do things without having to go out and get creative in finding revenue for projects."

But until those reserves get built up to a more comfortable level, Curtiss is continuing to explore "creative" avenues for funding certain proposed purchases.

For example, on Thursday, the CVB executive director told the board members about a desire to get a new display booth to help promote Woodward when the CVB staff attends various conferences across the country.

"This will be our fourth year at OML (Oklahoma Municipal League conference) with the same booth; we want to change that," Curtiss said.

Even though he said the current booth was "state-of-the-art" when it was purchased new just 4 years ago, he said it's time for the city to get something even more modern and state-of-the-art.

"You have to keep changing, you don't want the same old, same old," he said.  "The key is to stay ahead of the game."

Because while Woodward has garnered a lot of recognition at events with its current booth, more cities are beginning to follow suit with similar booths of their own, so Woodward needs to separate itself again, Curtiss said.

In order to generate income to pay for this new booth, he told the CVB board members that "I would like to rent out our booth to other cities for revenue enhancement."

He said 14 other communities in the state are interested in renting the booth, because it will save them the expense of buying their own.  For the full 20 foot by 30 foot booth, the rental fee is around $6,500, where as the purchase price would be around $35,000 to $40,000.

Since the booth can also be broken down into smaller sections, either 10 feet by 10 feet or 10 feet by 20 feet, that provides the city with even more rental flexibility.

Currently the Woodward CVB only uses the booth around 6 weeks out of the year, which means it would be available for rental the other 46 weeks.  However, Curtiss said it isn't realistic to think the booth will be used every week.

"But if we can rent it for 30 weeks, averaging $3,000 in rent payments each time, then that would more than pay for the new booth," he said.

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