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lunes, 13 de junio de 2011

Jehovah's Witnesses convention expected to draw nearly 30,000 visitors, generate more than $14 million

Written by David Young
http://www.coloradoan.com/article/20110610/LOVELAND03/306100001

The Budweiser Events Center belongs to the Jehovah's Witnesses for the remainder of this month.

The organization is holding its annual "Let God's Kingdom Come!" convention during the next five weekends and is expected to draw nearly 30,000 visitors and generate more than $14 million for the region.

Jehovah's Witnesses are a religious organization that actively shares information about God, whose name is Jehovah, according to the organization.

The events, open to the public, begin this weekend and continue for the next five weeks. The only other Colorado convention is in Pueblo. It's estimated that 27,000 people will attend the conferences during the combined weekends. The event is part of a larger nationwide effort that includes 381 conventions in 98 cities across the country.

Dave Graalum, the convention service coordinator, said the event, which is the same format each weekend, includes lectures, dramas, demonstrations and re-enactments. Graalum said they selected Loveland for the event based on a combination of hotels, in both Fort Collins and Loveland, which offer "reasonable" accommodations to make the event as easy as possible.

"We have gotten some good cooperation with the Budweiser Center and their staff, and local businessmen have been cooperative," Graalum said. "The economic impact is real and meaningful to the community between hotels and restaurants and fuel."

While Jehovah's Witnesses have tracked the regional economic impact of the event, Graalum declined to disclose those numbers.

Jim Clark, executive director of the Fort Collins Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the Jehovah's Witnesses have organized the biggest ongoing event in the region in terms of how much attendees spend.

In 2009 and 2010, the event drew $11.6 million to the region. This year, the visitors bureau is estimating $14.5 million for all five conventions, which is roughly $2.9 million each weekend they are in town.

Clark said delegates spend an average of $232 per person each day they are in town and typically stay for 2½ days. The majority of the money goes to lodging, food and fuel. Clark noted the group does not do too much retail shopping and remains on site at the event center.

While the event is in Loveland, attendees stay in Fort Collins because the visitors bureau has an agreement with the Jehovah's Witnesses in which they pay a portion of their expenses and, in return, attendees stay in Fort Collins hotels. Clark said virtually every hotel along the Harmony corridor blocks out rooms for the event and typically sells out on those weekends.

The visitors bureau budgeted $46,000 for this year's convention, which covers the rental of the facility and the traffic management around the event center.

"It's traditionally been steady attendance, for one," Clark said about the fiscal impact of the event. "It's pretty... important."

Alan Krcmarik, Loveland executive fiscal adviser, estimates the event will generate $7.5 million for the region and an additional $225,000 in tax revenue.

Krcmarik said he estimates visitors will spend $75 to $100 a day throughout the region.

Ryan Young, director of marketing with the Budweiser Center, said the all-day events in the arena typically fill up. In the past, Young said, the Jehovah's Witnesses events drew a good crowd for the center, which prepares for about 6,000 visitors a day for their conferences.

"It's going to be very packed," Young said. "It's been crowded the past couple years we have had them, and they do very well for each day they have it."

Young said in terms of attendance, it is substantial for the event center because it fills the place 15 times as opposed to just once.

He said it is common for venues to host multiple-day conventions such as this, and noted that, with the Colorado Eagles hockey team not playing, it helps fill seats in the summer.

Clark Davis, director of sales for the Embassy Suites Hotel in Loveland, adjacent to the center, said the event is a great opportunity for the community and the hotel, which has coordinated with the Jehovah's Witnesses to block a certain number of rooms each night.

This is the first year the hotel has been able to work with the conference, and Davis said he is not sure how many guests the hotel will draw. He estimated they blocked about 50 rooms per night for Jehovah's Witnesses guests.

"We have a room block for several weekends this month and next, and it is certainly contributing to our occupancy here as well as a number of other hotels in the market," said Davis, who could not speak to the possible economic impact for the hotel.

The $14 million expected locally exceeds other cities' predictions.

According to a report this month by meetingsnet.com, a similar Jehovah's Witnesses event in Tucson, Ariz., will draw nearly 40,000 people throughout the summer, generating about $3 million for that city.

Santa Clara, Calif., signed a five-year convention deal with the Jehovah's Witnesses to host events at its convention center and reports that it will result in $16.9 million for the community, according to ncal.meetingsmags.com.
 

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