The Woodward News

Local News

August 16, 2013

Conference Center to top 280 events in 2013

Woodward, Okla. — The Woodward Conference Center is on track to host over 280 events this year.

Debbie Hickman, tourism director with the Woodward Conventions and Visitors Bureau (CVB), made the announcement during a CVB Committee's August monthly meeting on Thursday afternoon.

Hickman said currently there are a total of 284 events on the CVB's calendar for 2013.

This is nearly twice as many events as the center hosted last year after opening in March 2012.  In its first 10 months, the conference center hosted around 147 events, which at the time was "mind-blowing" for the conference center staff.

However, now in their second year, the CVB staff seem to have gotten used to the activity.

Especially as Hickman said the conference center has hosted an average of 30 events a month for the last several months.

Specifically she said the center held 35 events in April; 22 in May; 33 in June; 30 in July and will host 32 this month.

Things look to ease up a bit in the coming months, but there are still plenty of events scheduled at the conference center and more being set every day.

Hickman said that currently there are 16 events booked in September; 21 for October; 12 for November; and 24 for December.

When committee members asked her about the type of events slated for the rest of the year, Hickman said, "we've got a lot of weddings and Christmas parties coming up."

And while Christmas is still 4 months away, she said she is quickly running out of days to schedule holiday parties, so those groups still hoping to book the center should call to reserve their time soon.

Other big events that are coming up include "a gun show this weekend with another one in October," Hickman said.  In related news, she said the local Friends of the NRA will be holding their annual banquet at the conference center on Oct. 11.

In other sporting news, the conference center will again play host to the Oklahoma Horseshoe Pitchers Association, which will hold it's state singles tournament in Woodward for the second year in a row later this month.  This tournament is set to begin on Aug. 31 and will feature some of the top horseshoe pitchers from around the state.

According to CVB Event Coordinator Jennifer Newton, horseshoe pitching tournaments could become a big event for Woodward.

After successfully hosting the state tournament last year, Newton said the CVB has been looking at expanding the number of horseshoe events it hosts.

Toward that end, she recently attended a couple of days at the World Horseshoe Tournament, which was held in St. George, Utah, July 22 through Aug. 3.

After learning more about the tournament, Newton told the CVB Committee that she now believes that Woodward could potentially host this same world tournament, which over a 2-week period could "bring up to 4,000 people (to the city) and pump around $3 million in to the local economy."

"I think we could try to bid for it in 2017 or 2018," she said.

While 4,000 people might seem like a lot for Woodward, Newton said "I think we can accommodate them" because "they come in waves."

She said only around 500 pitchers come to compete at a time.  Also she said some would likely come in their own RVs, which would help reduce the total number of hotel rooms needed down to a manageable level.

"We could bid it out to hold the tournament at the new fairgrounds and to hold their banquets here at the conference center," Newton said.

However, since the World Horseshoe Tournament requires "around 50,000 square feet for all the courts," Newton said she will have to wait until the renovations at the Woodward County Fairgrounds are complete to ensure the new facility will be large enough.

But the international horseshoe tournament is just one of several major events the CVB is wanting to bid on to bring to Woodward.

"We have several bids going out, including one to the CMAO (City Management Association of Oklahoma) and one going out to a 150-person bus tour, which is mainly for tourism, but we would host a welcome event here," Hickman said.  "There's also the Oklahoma Museum Association, which goes from a rural location one year to an urban location the next, so we're looking at bidding for it in 2015."

CVB Committee members Dwight Hughes and Steve Kohl made recommendations for other groups the staff could try to bring to Woodward.

As the manager of Northwest Inn, Kohl recommended bringing back the North American Falconers Association which held its annual field meet in Woodward in 2009. Kohl's hotel hosted many of the participating falconers and even allowed them to use a portion of the hotel's front lawn as a roosting area for the falconers' birds when they weren't out hunting.

As a father with a child participating in youth softball, Hughes recommended CVB staff try to bring OK Kids softball tournaments to Woodward once the new softball complex is completed.  Hughes said he has had to travel to southeast Oklahoma several times over the last couple of years for his daughter to compete in tournaments in places like Ada and Durant and he is ready to see some of that traffic come to Northwest Oklahoma.

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