New Event Center Could Give $1 Million Annual Boost to Local Economy

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A study has determined that an event center is needed in Phelps County, and a steering committee will soon be formed to explore strategies to make it happen.

The event center study by Core Distinction Group concluded that a convention/conference center/meeting facility is needed in Holdrege.

“This is based on the clear community demand as well as the direct and indirect economic impact of such a facility,” the study concluded.

PCDC commissioned the study this spring after community leaders and business owners expressed a need for an event center and offered funds to assist in a study.

PCDC Executive Director Ron Tillery said business owners and others had attended corporate meetings in towns similar in size to Holdrege that had modern convention facilities.

“They thought we were at a disadvantage and suggested that we look into it, so we did,” Tillery said.

Core Distinction interviewed several business and organizational leaders about the need for an event/meeting center. Most of those interviewed cited a need for meeting space for events such as Christmas parties, fund-raising banquets, large business meetings, wedding and graduation receptions and other events. Many also recommended the need for onsite food and other services.

“Any person who rents current facilities needs to clean, decorate, cater, rent furniture and so on,” the interviewee said. “Many events require the renter to work for multiple days prior to the event to get the facility prepared. A new facility should offer the all in one service that most people have come to expect. All-in-one price and furniture.”

Community Impact

CORE Distinction group conducted interviews, surveys and a market analysis. The study determined that the community could support a 20,000-square-foot facility, which would comfortably seat 200-300 people or a maximum of 500 people. However, Tillery said the study showed that the facility would best operate with a food/beverage business included. A facility alone, with no debt and no catering service, would generate about $55,000 annually. However, a facility with a catering service would generate a net operating income of $63,000 (also excluding debt).

Another compelling statistic, Tillery said, is that the center would attract an estimated 11,000 people annually with 5,000 of those coming from out of town. The study estimates that those guests would generate an additional 7,100 room nights in local hotels and a ripple effect of more than $1 million in hotel and other indirect spending.

The study pointed out that having a new event center can have potential transformative and iconic effects on a community in terms of quality of life, community prestige and perception by visitors. Event centers also sometimes encourage spin-off developments such as new retail businesses that may sprout up near the facility, which also adds to the local tax base.

Next Steps

Tillery said PCDC board member Shane Westcott has agreed to lead the event center steering committee. They will be presenting the study’s findings to the funding entities and will be welcoming more steering committee members.

Other Nebraska small towns, including York and West Point, have formed a non-profit organization to raise funds to build convention centers. In both of those towns, a large benefactor donated to get the project started and then additional donations were sought to build an operating reserve fund. At that point, the non-profit would partner with a for-profit catering business or restaurant to provide the food and beverage service and manage the rentals.

Tillery noted that while a non-profit may own the facility, it’s important to note that the entity managing the center would be expected to operate at a profit.

Preliminary estimates indicate a price tag of $3.5 million for a Holdrege event center. Although no location has been determined, two sites were considered for the sake of the study. One of those sites was the Holdrege Country Club.

Related: New Cobblestone Hotel Coming to Holdrege Read more HERE.

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