The Woodward News

January 18, 2013

Conference Center looking to expand schedule in 2013

Rowynn Ricks
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — Woodward's Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) is looking forward to another busy year.

During the CVB Committee's monthly meeting Thursday afternoon, CVB Executive Director Jim Curtiss said his staff has already booked around 120 events for the Woodward Conference Center in 2013.

Event Coordinator Jennifer Newton said that many of the events that have already been scheduled for this year are rebookings, with groups who held their event at the center in 2012 deciding to return again in 2013.

"We're pretty much at 100 percent with rebookings, meaning if they had an annual event, they've rebooked for this year," Newton said.

That includes events such as the Tri State Oil and Gas Convention, state horseshoe pitching tournament, and NRA banquet.

With the current bookings, the CVB is halfway toward its goal of 240 events throughout the year.

While that may sound like a lofty goal, Curtiss said it averages out to about 20 events per month.

"It sounds substantially more than last year, but actually is only a 4 to 5 event increase per month," he said.

Hosting nearly 150 events between March 2012 and Dec. 2012, the conference center averaged around 15 events a month during it's first calendar year of operation.

However, Curtiss said even an increase of 5 additional events per month is going to make his already busy staff even busier, especially the 2 event coordinators, banquet supervisor and janitorial staff who work the events.

So when budget discussions start in April for the next Fiscal Year, Curtiss said he plans to see if more staff members can be added to help share the work load.

CVB Committee members Steve Kohl and Dwight Hughes indicated that they agreed that more staff was needed, especially as the current event coordinators also handle sales, meaning that they both book and plan the events, in addition to performing other miscellaneous duties.  Kohl and Hughes said they felt it would be better if the sales and coordination duties were separate so that the staff members weren't so overworked.

But while the ability to add more staff is unknown, Tourism Director Debbie Hickman said that the CVB has "an intern coming in May" and has received a resume from another possible intern to help with events during the summer.

And as if things weren't busy enough at the conference center, the CVB staff is also dedicated to bringing more events to the community as a whole.

Newton said it is shaping up to be a busy year for Woodward events as well, with everything from cage fighting to concerts on the schedule.

"Already this year we have so many events happening around the same time," she said.  "For example, we had a circus wanting to come in on May 11, but we couldn't book them for that time because we already booked out the Crystal Beach Arena for that day.  It's a good problem to have, but we're having to put events anywhere we can."

Even with all this activity, Newton said she is continuing to look at bringing new and different events to Woodward, particularly in the area of sports.

For example, she is looking to see whether the conference center might be able to host an Olympic ping pong regional event sometime in the next few years.

"I'm also looking into to the possibility of holding tae kwon do and karate tournaments here," she said.

Newton said she would also like to see the CVB branch out into the gaming world and hold video game tournaments at the conference center.  She said she is in the process of seeing whether Xbox or PlayStation would be willing to sponsor a "Madden Challenge" event in Woodward, and one day hopes to hold a Halo tournament as well.

On the community level, Newton said, "I'm working with Bryan White at the city to look at baseball events and basketball tournaments."

She already has one basketball tournament scheduled as part of the city's 4th of July celebrations.  After the response to the tournament held last Independence Day, she said she will be expanding it to 3-man teams for this year's tourney.  "And I'm working on pre-registration for teams so we can have even more teams participate," she said, noting she is looking to expand the bracket from 16 to 32 teams.

Other events, both sporting and otherwise, are still in the works, but Newton said she is confident that there will be plenty of activity in Woodward this year to keep residents and visitors entertained.