Can Owensboro Convention Center Learn From Others?

Can the new convention center meet expectations? Some lessons could be learned at another facility in Missouri.
Like any other new business or convention center, there are expectations. And officials are expecting big things at the Owensboro Convention Center. But how do they meet these expectations?

When setting up an expo or show, you must be sure nothing's missing. But in St. Charles, Missouri, there was something missing: a convention center.

"It was hard to bring in a convention when we had challenges of using a banquet center and a hotel that was across the parking lot or a block away, trying to fit the needs of that customer was a big challenge," says Martha Little of the Greater St. Charles CVB.

For Susan Winklemann of the American Subcontractors Association, that missing piece caused them frustrations.

"They moved locations a number of times," she says. But it wasn't until the completion of the Saint Charles Convention Center where they found what was missing.

"It took time to find the place that worked for the people that were going to attend the event," she says. "And this place has worked fantastically the past seven years."

Since it opened in 2005, it's hosted thousands of shows and welcomed many more visitors.

"We've far exceeded the expectations," says Shura Garnett of the Saint Charles Convention Center. Last year, they hosted more than 350 events, including 22 conventions, and welcomed more than 150,000 people. Garnett says even with the recent recession, they didn't miss their expectations, In fact, they beat them.

"This convention center was never anticipated to operate in the black, and we've done so half the years we have been open," she says. For the Owensboro Convention Center to succeed, it'll take work, good customer service, the drive to aim big...

"The first thing you try to do is book out as far as you can the largest pieces of business that you can, so you have the adequate space for your needs," says Garnett. "And then you come in with the smaller events. So, maybe those are your trade shows." And they must aim at being a team to avoid missing our on opportunities.

"I truly believe in communication, and I think that we have that within our CVB in our building here, to communicate with staff to be sure we're on the same page," Little says.

Garnett adds there were a few obstacles after they opened. Among them, a lack of transportation between the convention center and nearby hotels.
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