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Welcome center in downtown Hagerstown getting new look

February 29, 2008

The Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau is renovating its downtown Visitor Welcome Center at 6 N. Potomac St.

During the renovation, the welcome center is temporarily in the CVB administrative offices at 16 Public Square.

The CVB opened the Visitor Welcome Center in 2000 and this is the first time changes have been made to the space. "The current trend with Visitor Centers is to position themselves as a destination - a place where visitors want to go and be a part of the culture and excitement that an area has to offer, and it's a perfect time with all the revitalization going on downtown," said Jolene Thomas, CVB director of operations. "Renovations include a new visitor-friendly reception desk, new paint, carpeting and fixtures."

The redesigned space will have more efficient storage for the large amount of printed material the CVB makes available to visitors and travelers. The interior walls will feature large Washington County images provided by Garringer Images.

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The Visitor Welcome Center is operated by the CVB, and in space rented from the City of Hagerstown. The CVB is funding the entire renovation project. The current renovations should be completed during the first part of March, when the center is expected to reopen.

"This is a significant effort for our nonprofit organization. The Board of Directors of the Convention and Visitors Bureau identified the Visitor Welcome Center renovation project as one of the CVB's priority goals for 2008," said Tom Riford, CVB president. "Last year, nearly 12,000 people visited the CVB's Downtown Hagers-town location. After the renovations are completed, and also with the increase in the number of walking tours which start at the Visitor Welcome Center, we anticipate seeing more visitors."

This is the first phase of renovation planned for the Visitor Welcome Center. "The second phase will involve new displays and additional rack space," Thomas said. "We plan to incorporate interactive technology, with our goal to provide visitors with the information and tools they need to make choices about dining, lodging, exploring, and sightseeing here in Washington County."

One of the biggest aesthetic changes in the Visitor Welcome Center will be with its front windows. In the past the windows featured striking displays, either seasonal or based on area events. The large window spaces have been cleared so visitors can see directly into the welcome center. "We want people to see a warm and inviting space," said Thomas. "Passersby need to be able to look in from the sidewalk, or even while driving by in their cars, and see the many resources we have available." Thomas said the Visitor Welcome Center not only helps disseminate information, but helps draw people to downtown Hagerstown.

The renovation project is being coordinated by Thomas; members of the CVB board of directors including Julie Rohm, general manager of Valley Mall; Kevin Moriarty, director of the Washington County Arts Council; and Riford.

The Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau is a 501(c)(6) nonprofit organization whose mission is to help attract visitors to Hagers-town and Washington County. The CVB helps to create growth for the local economy by promoting, developing and expanding the local visitor industry.

Last year, more than 2 million people visited Washington County and spent more than $250 million, according to the State of Maryland. With more than 6,000 workers (in the leisure and hospitality classification according to DLLR), tourism is the second largest private industry in Washington County.

For more information visit www.marylandmemories.com.

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