Natchez Convention Center statistics show growth
from Staff Reports - NEWS
January 26, 2017 - ListenUpYall.com
By John Mott Coffey
NATCHEZ, Miss – The growing number of outside groups gathering at the Natchez Convention Center is generating more revenues and jobs for the city, restaurants and hotels.
“Your convention center is the locomotive that runs the hospitality industry,” said Warren Reuther, whose company manages the city-owned facility.
He and convention center manager Walter Tipton presented their annual report Tuesday showing the mayor and Board of Aldermen that meetings last year drew nearly 29,200 people. That’s up from the 28,300 in 2015, 18,000 in 2011 and 9,700 in 2007.
Natchez last year celebrated the 300th anniversary of its founding and used the tricentennial as a marketing tool to lure more conventions and visitors.
The convention center and neighboring Natchez Grand Hotel hosted 115 events in 2016, 148 in 2015, 58 in 2011 and 32 in 2007, according to Tipton.
Direct economic impact from the convention center totaled about $9 million in 2016, up from the $8.9 million in 2015 and $5 million in 2007.
With more conventions comes more tourism tax revenues for the city. In fiscal 2016 that ended last September, the city’s special 1.5 percent restaurant sales tax generated about $798,000, according to Tipton. That’s up from the $756,000 in 2015.
However, the 3 percent sales tax charged to hotel lodgers declined from the $545,000 generated in 2015 to $541,000 in 2016. The decline, Tipton said, can be attributed to the temporary closure of the Magnolia Bluffs Hotel while it was being renovated.
The additional $2-a-day tax imposed on hotel patrons generated about $403,000 in 2016, a rise from previous years except the peak of $443,000 in fiscal 2013.
Revenues from these tourism taxes are used to market Natchez and help pay off the bond loan that financed the convention center’s construction, which cost about $10 million. It opened in 2002.
Tipton said bookings for the Natchez Convention Center this year look promising. For example, the Mississippi Speech-Language-Hearing Association will gather there in March drawing about 600 people. A multistate meeting of Rotary club members will convene in March drawing about 280 people. A state mental health and Alzheimer’s conference is scheduled for August with about 500 people.
The city 10 years ago contracted Reuther’s New Orleans-based firm to run the convention center. He also owns the Natchez Grand Hotel across the street on Canal. The company’s management contract is up for renewal by the Board of Aldermen next October.
The Board of Aldermen on Tuesday declared the construction of the new Duncan Park Tennis Center building successfully finished. The board contracted Rankin Construction in May to build it for about $374,000, with $250,000 in city funds being combined with a $150,000 grant from the state Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.
The board put off a decision on whether to lease the old Duncan Park golf pro shop to a local fraternity to be used as a youth community center. Fraternity spokesman Tony Heidelberg said the organization wants to spend about $133,000 to restore the dilapidated building near the tennis courts. Aldermen said they want to review details in the proposed 50-year lease.