Thursday, March 07, 2002

Visitor center closed, up for sale

MainStrasse fixture has space, parking

By Sarah Buehrle
Enquirer Contributor

        COVINGTON — The closed Northern Kentucky Visitors Center in MainStrasse Village is up for sale, with no plans to open a new one.

        Run by the Northern Kentucky Convention & Visitors Bureau, the center at 605 Philadelphia St. consists of a gift shop and theater in a one-story building and offices in an adjacent home.

        After only 19,076 visitors in 2001, the bureau, which covers Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties, closed the center in November.

        Bureau President Tom Caradonio said that it cost 5 percent of the bureau's budget to keep the center — which was free to visitors — open.

        “It's a lot when you don't have much,” Mr. Caradonio said. “The feeling was, by the executive committee and the marketing committee, that the $125,000-$140,000 could be better spent getting people here rather than servicing those who already know what they're doing.

        “A lot of visitors centers, like us, are close to the highway and utilized primarily for restrooms,” he said.

        Mr. Caradonio said the property was appraised at $900,000- $950,000.

        He said it consists of 47,000 square feet and has more parking, 60 spaces, than other MainStrasse properties. Since the decision was made to advertise for a broker in February, one broker and five individual entities have contacted the bureau.

        Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties were ranked third, fourth and 13th in tourism revenue of Kentucky's 120 counties in 2000, according to the Kentucky Department of Travel.

        Tourism in the three counties, especially Boone and Kenton, was hit hard in 2001 after the Comair strike and Sept. 11 because the counties derived much traffic from the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, according to Larry Southard, research specialist for the Kentucky Department of Travel.

        Exact figures measuring that loss are not yet compiled.

        Mr. Caradonio said it is unlikely the bureau will open another visitors center.

        A bureau study last year found that 70 percent of people found Northern Kentucky tourism information on the Internet.

        Money from the building sale will be used to launch tourism and convention advertising, possibly through direct mailings, TV and radio advertising, and to shore up funds in the event of further economic downturns.


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- Visitor center closed, up for sale