City looks to market Centennial Hall locally, bring in more users

Hall expects to offer more of the same to reduce unrented days

Posted: Monday, September 13, 2004

The city plans to better locally market Centennial Hall Convention and Civic Center after 10 years of no promotions, officials told the Empire.

The local marketing responsibility of Centennial Hall will transfer from the Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau to civic center staff, said Kim Kiefer, director of the city Parks and Recreation Department, which oversees the center.

JCVB will not be affected by the change because it was not dedicating any staff or resources for local marketing, President and CEO Lorene Palmer said Friday.

The city's marketing effort was backed by the Juneau Assembly Committee of the Whole on Thursday. The committee approved a July 2004 report, "Management Study for Centennial Hall Convention and Civic Center," which recommended civic center staff locally market the venue. The study was done by Economics Research Associates of San Francisco, Calif.

The city is expected to offer more of the same types of events at the center to reduce the number of "dark days" when no one rents the facility, Kiefer said.

Centennial Hall had 72 dark days in 2002, center manager Dayle Tennison said Friday. From 2000 to 2002, an average of 75,000 people per year used the center to meet, she said.

Shifting the marketing responsibility to center staff makes more sense because their focus is the local market, officials said. Likewise, JCVB's focus is bringing in outside user groups who fill local hotel rooms, shop in stores and eat in restaurants.

"I think it is because I think they can be more effective at doing it," Tennison said of staff marketing the center.

Centennial Hall, located downtown on Egan Drive, functions as a convention center and civic center, Kiefer said. The center hosts events that range from funerals to the annual Alaska Folk Festival, and community garage sales, boat shows and weddings.

"Centennial Hall is a place where people can be happy and cheerful and it's a place where people can have a meditative moment," Kiefer said.

When Tennison retires at the end of January 2005, Kiefer said she plans to replace her with a new manager who will also perform marketing duties. Specifics about marketing the center will be worked out then, Kiefer said.

Kiefer did not have estimated costs of marketing the venue, but said many tasks can be done in the daily structure of the job without costing a lot of money. They include talking to different service organizations and following up with groups who've held events at the center, she said. The new manager would collaborate with JCVB as well, she said.

The 40,000-square-foot center has been owned and operated by the city since it was built in 1982. The center is funded by user groups that rent space at the facility and a portion of the city's 7 percent hotel occupancy tax.

JCVB was responsible for locally marketing the center, but in the early 1990s a portion of its local marketing budget became absorbed into its outside marketing budget, Kiefer said. No direction was given to continue the local marketing piece.

Palmer said the budget change occurred before she assumed office. She thinks it happened as staff changed at JCVB and Parks and Recreation.

"Over time the focus shifted from doing local marketing to out-of-state marketing," Palmer said.

JCVB will continue to market the hall to user groups outside of Juneau.

• Tara Sidor can be reached at tara.sidor@juneauempire.com



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