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Convention center suggested for city

August 06, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

A consultant for a Hagerstown tourism group on Tuesday suggested consideration be given to building a convention and events center totaling about 61,000 square feet.

Representatives of consultant HVS International of Chicago suggest the center contain 40,000 square feet of exhibit space, a 9,000-square-foot ballroom and 12,000 square feet for meeting rooms.

The representatives, speaking after a written and oral presentation to a joint meeting of the Hagerstown City Council and Washington County Commissioners, refused to give an estimated cost for such a center but said they were looking at five possible sites.

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The site that currently looks the best is the Venice Inn at Cleveland Avenue and Dual Highway in Hagerstown, said Tom Hazinski, managing director of the consulting firm. If the property were used, the hotel rooms and pool would be demolished, he said.

He said, however, another site could turn out to be a better location.

The other four sites are near the former Ames store on Dual Highway, near Outback Steakhouse near Valley Mall, near Municipal Stadium in Hagerstown and near CVS on North Cannon Avenue, he said.

The Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors commissioned the consultant's study after noticing some businesses considered having events here but decided to go elsewhere, said Ben Hart, the bureau's executive director.

The board asked the consultant to see if there was enough demand to justify building a convention center in Washington County. Hazinski said there is.

The most significant demand in Washington County is for consumer shows, which do not bring in as many overnight guests as some types of events, such as trade shows or conventions, said Hans Detletsen, HVS International senior manager.

For consumer shows, the biggest draw is within a 25-mile radius, he said.

In about a month, the consultant is to suggest a site, how it should be funded and give estimated costs, Hazinski said.

The consultant's report projects demand for an events center as follows: 2005 - 104 events and 35,000 total attendance; 2006 - 178 events and 60,050 total attendance; 2007 - 228 events and 82,900 total attendance; and 2008 - 239 events and 93,750 total attendance.

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