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Temporary welcome center at outlets closes

Construction of Myersville, Md. visitor's center delayed

Construction of Myersville, Md. visitor's center delayed

June 24, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Maryland's tourism office let a lease for a temporary welcome center at Prime Outlets at Hagerstown expire, despite delays in building a permanent $18 million center off Interstate 70.

The state started renting space at the outlet center in May 2008 while the welcome center in Myersville, Md., was closed as part of a replacement project.

When the one-year lease expired at the end of May, the Maryland Office of Tourism vacated the Prime Outlets storefront.

The Myersville welcome center was closed in April as the state prepared to build a new one, which was expected to open in September. But delays have pushed the estimated completion time for the new center to April 2010, said Charlie Gischlar, a spokesman for the State Highway Administration.

Gischlar attributed the delays to rain and a longer-than-expected process in getting erosion and sediment control permits.

He said the estimated cost of the new center is $18 million.

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During a grand opening ceremony in May 2008, Margot A. Amelia, the Office of Tourism's executive director, predicted the temporary center might draw more than 200,000 people, the yearly turnout at the Myersville welcome center.

During the year, however, about 40,000 people stopped in at the Prime Outlets center, Amelia said this week.

"I was a little aggressive, wasn't I?" she said when asked about her prediction.

The state rented almost 2,000 square feet under a cash-and-trade agreement with Prime Outlets.

Amelia said the state paid about $30,000 for the space. Prime Outlets received about $16,000 worth of display advertising in state tourism publications.

When the temporary center closed, the Office of Tourism transferred a full-time supervisor who worked there to another center near Emmitsburg, Md., Amelia said.

One full-time position and one part-time position from the temporary center were eliminated.

With the new Myersville center being built and the temporary center at Prime Outlets closed, the closest state welcome centers are at Sideling Hill and Emmitsburg.

Even without the temporary visitor center, local travel information is available at Prime Outlets.

Thomas B. Riford, president and CEO of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Prime Outlets' food court carries brochures and guides on local tourist attractions and amenities.

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