Saturday, June 14, 2003

N.Ky. Visitors Center gets looks

Price slash brings interest

By William Croyle
Enquirer contributor

COVINGTON - The price has been lowered by nearly 20 percent and people are interested. All that's left now is to seal a deal.

The Northern Kentucky Visitors Center, at 605 Philadelphia St. in MainStrasse Village, remains for sale one year after it went on the market.

The Northern Kentucky Convention & Visitors Bureau dropped the initial asking price of $950,000 last spring to $850,000 four months later. Six months later the bureau slashed the price to $750,000, which has finally created an interest in the property.

"We've had lots of activity," said Matt Franks of Jim Huff Realty, the listing agent for the center. "Part of the problem has been the market and part of it was that expectations were too high. But time has brought the price down in line now with the market."

The bureau, which markets tourism for Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties, closed the center in November 2001 because of a lack of visitors.

The number of visitors dropped from 28,467 in 2000 to 19,076 for the first 10 months of 2001.

"Only 3 percent of our visitors who came to Northern Kentucky went to the visitors center in 2000," said Tom Caradonio, president of the bureau. "And 70 percent of the visitors use the Internet to get their information."

The bureau spent between $125,000 and $140,000 annually to keep the center open, about 5 percent of the bureau's budget.

"In today's world, people who need information go to the Internet," said Jim Willman, board member and past chairman for the bureau. "With the lack of visitors coming in and budget constraints, we thought it would be better to use the money to market hotels and attractions."

The two buildings on the 1-acre property have a total of 5,200 square feet.

One building has a reception area and small theater, while the other has three floors of office space. There is also a parking lot that can hold 50-60 cars.

Franks said aside from office use, people have shown an interest in converting the building into a restaurant.

He said offers have been made and the bureau is working with prospective buyers but no offer has been accepted.

Barbara Atwood, assistant director of marketing for the Kentucky Department of Travel, said Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties ranked third, fourth, and 11th, respectively, in tourism expenditures in 2002.

Last year, tourists spent $270.5 million in Boone County, $226.6 million in Kenton County, and $96.6 million in Campbell County.

"The counties truly suffered in 2001 because of the unrest in Cincinnati, the Comair strike, and 9-11," Atwood said.

"But they rebounded nicely in 2002, and hotels are up in the Northern Kentucky region by 5.4 percent in the first quarter of 2003 versus last year."


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