Why Yakima Needs to Improve Its Convention Infrastructure

The meetings and convention market is a crucial part of our local tourism industry and economy. It’s also important to other cities around the Pacific Northwest. Yakima competes with these cities to attract meetings. If we are to be successful in bringing and keeping conventions, we must maintain and improve our convention and hospitality infrastructure. If we don’t, we risk losing millions of dollars in revenue, taxes and jobs created by the convention industry.

Meeting planners review many factors when choosing a city to hold their event: location, costs, support infrastructure, surrounding attractions, activities, etc.  A recent survey of 398 U.S. planners conducted by the Kliman Group and Fulcrum found that the top three “destination strength elements that contribute to destination appeal” when choosing a city are lodging, air service and meeting assets (e.g. convention center). Yakima is largely a drive-to destination and while the City has made great strides in improving air service, it’s currently not a major factor for convention planners in our market. Quality lodging and the convention center, however, are crucial factors. The Yakima Convention Center has a stellar reputation for service, plus has had significant improvements since it was built. We must, however, do more if we are to remain competitive.

According to data we track, the primary reason for cancellations and groups not booking the Yakima Convention Center is due to a scheduling conflict with another group for the center (31%). The second most common reason was a lack of meeting or exhibit space for dates group desired (28%), followed by groups opting for a self- contained location, specifically at a hotel (20%). Collectively, these three reasons account for nearly 80% of lost convention business.

There is growing concern among current and past clients regarding the perceived lack of space at the center. Some of these groups have chosen other venues instead of the Yakima Convention Center, including Spokane and Tri-Cities, while others indicate they are on the verge of outgrowing the current Yakima facilities.

In 2015, the City of Yakima, with the support and involvement of the Yakima Public Facilities District, commissioned Kidder Mathews to conduct a market study on our convention center, lodging facilities and to assess competing markets. The researchers involved in the study have extensive experience in hotel and convention center analysis. Their study recommended that market conditions warrant an additional 51,000 square foot exhibit hall. As stated in their report, “By adding a dedicated exhibit hall to the Yakima Convention Center Campus, the city would create a definite competitive advantage over both Kennewick and Wenatchee. With the exception of the Spokane exhibit hall, Yakima would be the only facility with true exhibit space…. It would distinguish the new facility from alternative options in the competitive markets.”

The new exhibit hall would also increase the center’s scheduling flexibility, improving our ability to host multiple events and organizations concurrently. The added space would also allow the center’s sales team to target organizations that have outgrown the existing facilities. Both advantages would support efforts to recapture lost business due to capacity and scheduling, which accounts for 58% of total defectors.

Davenport Grand Hotel in Spokane, WA

Davenport Grand Hotel in Spokane, WA

Likewise, our headquarter lodging needs to be addressed. Last year, Spokane welcomed a new headquarter tower hotel connected to their convention center with more than 700 guest rooms, 60,000 square feet of meeting space and a parking garage. In the Tri-Cities, a new SpringHill Suites opened last summer, also connected to their convention center. In Wenatchee, the City recently sold land to a developer to build a 170 plus room Hilton Garden Inn along the waterfront next to an existing walkway to their convention center. These are our three main competitors.  We are losing conventions to these cities because of the condition and age of our headquarter hotel. Kidder Mathews recommends building a new headquarter hotel to replace the aging Red Lion. A number of scenarios and locations around the Yakima Convention Center Campus are being evaluated. Other possible hotel plans in the city core could have a bearing on the final configuration for the project.

Currently we are working with the City to secure an architectural firm to estimate costs and develop renderings of a center addition and headquarter hotel. This would help show what the vision could look like and assist us in advancing the project.

The Yakima Convention Center is a cornerstone in the health and vitality of Yakima. It currently pumps more than $11 million into the local economy. It brings visitors and locals to the city center, generates activity for partner facilities plus increases customers for businesses and attractions across the community.

I hope you will join me to work with the community, private and public sectors to ‘raise the bar’ and upgrade our convention amenities.

John Cooper

Yakima Valley Tourism

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Yakima to Host Large Music Conference This Month

Steve Treseler, the author of The Living Jazz Tradition, conducts a workshops to middle school, high school and college educators at the 2014 WMEA conference. Photo by CMA Press.

Steve Treseler, author of The Living Jazz Tradition, conducts a workshop to middle school, high school and college educators at the 2014 WMEA conference. Photo by CMA Press.

The Washington Music Educators Association (WMEA) will hold its 43rd Biennial Conference and All-State Honor Group performances February 11th – 14th at the Yakima Convention Center and numerous other venues around Yakima. Over the course of the weekend, more than 4,000 students, teachers, staff and families will make their way to Yakima for the event.

Included in that figure are 1,200+ All-State and Junior All-State students. In addition, about 1,100 music teachers from around the state will attend 120 sessions for continuing education as well as 15 concerts their students are performing. An additional 1,700 or more family members, friends and staff will be in Yakima for the event.

According to Yakima Valley Tourism, this is the largest convention slated for 2016. “We work on this event for more than a year,” stated John Cooper, President & CEO for Yakima Valley Tourism. “This conference fills hotels for miles and brings significant visitor spending to the Valley.”

There are more than 20 ensembles (Bands, Orchestras, Choirs, Jazz Ensembles, and Percussion Ensembles, etc.) from all over the state. Along with their teachers, students will perform at “Concert Hours” and “Demonstration Sessions” throughout the weekend. To coordinate the programs, WMEA bulks up for the conference to about 80 staff members (from an office staff of six). This group will take care of details from presiding at conference sessions, moving percussion gear around concert sites and making sure that All-State Students are properly fed and rested.

In order to attend events at the conference, people have to be registered or they have to be involved with presenting, performing or staffing. The Junior All-State and the All-State Concerts, however, are open to the public.

The schedule, time and locations of the concerts are listed below:

Friday, February 12th at 3:00 PM

All State Jazz Concert – Yakima Convention Center

Saturday, February 13th at 4:15 PM      

  • Junior All-State Instrumental Concert – Eisenhower High School
  • Junior All-State Choral Concert – Capitol Theatre

Sunday, February 14th at 1:00 PM

  • All-State Bands – Eisenhower High School
  • All-State Orchestras – Capitol Theatre
  • All-State Choirs – Yakima Convention Center

Concert tickets are $20 if purchased in advance, or $25 the day of or at the door. Children grade eight and below are admitted free. Tickets may be purchased in advance by calling 509-853-2787, on the WMEA website at www.wmea.org under 2016 Conference Information, or online at www.ticketswest.com/events/wmea-all-state-concerts/14702/. Tickets will be sold at the door of each concert venue, plus at the Capitol Theatre Box office starting at 11:00am on Friday for Friday’s Jazz Concert at the Yakima Convention Center, and starting at 11:00am on Sunday for the three Large Group Concerts. Tickets to any of the Sunday concerts allow access to all three events that day.

Yakima has been the traditional location for the WMEA State Conference and All-State Honor Groups for more than 20 years. The event is staged in Yakima around President’s Day Weekend every even numbered year. “We always feel special here,” stated WMEA Executive Director Scott Ketron. “The team of folks at the tourism office and hotels that help us manage this event are like family and they know what to do. We value Yakima, its people and our ongoing relationship with the community.”

Yakima Valley Tourism Launches “Bring It Home” Campaign

bringItHomeYakima-logoConcepts3Yakima Valley Tourism has launched a campaign to bring more convention and group business to Yakima. “Bring It Home Yakima” is aimed at getting local citizens and groups to invite, attract and host their state and regional events in Yakima.

“Often it takes local people who are involved in their trade and personal interest groups to help bring their conferences to town,” stated John Cooper, President  & CEO of Yakima Valley Tourism. “This campaign is designed to encourage and help them to do just that.”

Cooper cites there are many groups and organizations that local residents belong to including trade and professional associations, sporting groups plus hobby, religious, military and fraternal organizations. “All of them have meetings, tourneys and events so let’s bring them to Yakima,” he stated.

To assist residents in this effort, Yakima Valley Tourism has built a website www.BringItHomeYakima.com  that contains resources, assistance provided by the organization and a simple form for people to fill out to be contacted. “Just let us know what groups you’re involved in and we’ll be in touch to see how together we can bring their events to town,” Cooper stated.

Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau Changes Name

The agency responsible for developing and marketing tourism for the Yakima Valley will be doing business under a new name. Effective today, the Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau will be doing business as Yakima Valley Tourism. The change resulted from a board retreat last year as the organization made future plans for tourism in the region.

Yakima Valley Tourism made the announcement today at the Yakima Convention Center where it presented updates and issues facing the local, state and national tourism industries to the public.

“The new name is easier to remember, better reflects our mission and coincides with the launch of our six-year strategic plan,” stated John Cooper, President & CEO. “Our organization is responsible for all facets of tourism including conventions and groups, visitor services, sports and leisure travel. Tourism is an inclusive word for all sectors of the industry.”

The main website to promote Yakima Valley will be www.yakimavalleytourism.com

Yakima Valley Tourism is a non-profit trade association. It has been known as Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau since forming in 1957.

Tourism 2020: State of the Tourism Industry in the Yakima Valley

headerImageBlockTM-copyAs the New Year begins, the Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau is rolling out a number of programs aimed at building all forms of tourism in the Yakima Valley in 2014 and beyond.  To outline these projects, the Bureau will hold a presentation Friday, January 17th 10:00 a.m. at the Yakima Convention Center, 10 North 8th Street in Downtown Yakima.

Among the topics to be covered:

  • Update on the state of the tourism industry nationally, state wide and locally
  • Brief review of Tourism 2020, the organization’s  strategic plan for tourism in the Yakima Valley
  • Review proposed legislation to fund new Washington state tourism efforts
  • Announce an important change for the Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau

There is no charge to attend the session and the event is open to the public. To RSVP call 800- 221-0751 or contact laura@visityakima.com

Yakima Convention Center Choses New Caterer

logoCenterplate, one of the largest hospitality companies in the world, will become the exclusive food service provider for the Yakima Convention Center on May 1st.  Centerplate serves more than 115 million guests each year in more than 300 venues throughout North America and the United Kingdom.  Centerplate’s current client list includes convention centers in Dallas, Miami, and San Diego, major entertainment venues like the Spokane Arena, the Tacoma Dome, and the New Orleans Arena, and pro sports franchises such as the Denver Broncos (NFL), Seattle Mariners (MLB), and Portland Timbers (MLS).

“We’re excited about the experience and quality that Centerplate brings to the Yakima Convention Center,” said Yakima City Manager Tony O’Rourke.  “Centerplate clearly has a proven track record for outstanding customer service that our Convention Center guests will enjoy.  We are looking forward to a long and productive relationship,” said O’Rourke.

Centerplate will offer several new selections that include a Northwest take on fresh, local ingredients sourced from neighboring suppliers have been created for the Convention Center’s menu by renowned Executive Chef Matthew Lecours, who has served as Microsoft’s District Chef and as Centerplate’s Executive Sous Chef at Safeco Field.  Yakima Valley wines will also be prominently featured on the Convention Center’s menu.

“We know the Yakima Convention Center is a valuable asset to the community,” said Centerplate Regional Vice President Adrian Dishington.  “Centerplate’s goal is to provide each guest with a one-of-a-kind authentic experience while also providing local businesses with opportunities to partner with us.  By working hand in hand with meeting planners and event specialists, we’ll deliver world class hospitality for each and every guest at the Convention Center,” said Dishington.

Centerplate has been the hospitality service provider for numerous major events including thirty U.S. Presidential inaugural balls, thirteen Super Bowls, twenty one World Series, and the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.  The company was recently named by Nation’s Restaurant News as the fastest growing restaurant/hospitality groups in the United States.

The Yakima Convention Center is the premiere meeting facility in Central Washington and last year served more than 125,000 guests and generated nearly $9 million in economic activity. The center is owned by the City of Yakima and managed by the Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau.

Author of “Sideways” and “Vertical” Novels to Speak in Yakima Washington

Rex Pickett_11142010_090-Edit Author and screenplay writer Rex Pickett will be the featured guest and presenter at BLEND, a  reception and wine event April 18th, 5:30 p.m. in the Yakima Convention Center  hosted by the Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau.

Pickett has written many screenplays for both film and television. He wrote the novel Sideways, which was made into the famous Oscar-winning film of the same title by Alexander Payne. In 2011 he wrote and independently published his Sideways sequel Vertical. It won the prestigious Gold Medal for Fiction from the Independent Publishers Book Awards last year.

Rex has now has turned Sideways into a critically-acclaimed play. After a successful six month run in Santa Monica, “Sideways” the play will now go to the La Jolla Playhouse where it will be prepped for its Broadway run. Rex is currently the wine columnist for Town & Country Magazine and is writing a pilot for HBO titled The Nose. He also blogs for Huffington Post Books. Inklings Bookshop will have copies of Mr. Pickett’s books available for purchase  and autographs after his talk.

BLEND is open to the public and includes the opportunity to meet and hear Mr. Pickett, enjoy wine by Yakima Valley wineries plus sumptuous appetizers and more.  Cost is $25 per person. To reserve call 509-575-3010 or email laura@visityakima.com. Online tickets are available here (small transaction fee applies).

Participating wineries include Two Mountain Winery, Kana Winery, Milbrandt Vineyards, Gilbert Cellars, Airfield Estates, Sleeping Dog Wines, Treveri Cellars sparkling wine,  Knight Hill Winery, Kestrel Vintners & Cultura Wine.

Sponsors to date include the Holiday Inn and Oxford Inn and Suites of Yakima. Riedel stemware sponsored by Paul Berndt, Prudential Almon Realty


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BLEND SPONSORS:

blendSponsors

 

 

 

PARTICIPATING WINERIES:

  • Airfield Estates Winery
  • Cultura Wines
  • Gilbert Cellars
  • Kana Winery
  • Kestrel Vintners
  • Knight Hill Winery
  • Milbrandt Vineyards
  • Sleeping Dog Wines
  • Treveri Cellars
  • Two Mountain Winery

 

Yakima Valley Washington 2012 Tourism Report

The Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau (VCB) reports 2012 was a successful year for the organization in attracting and serving visitors.

In 2012 the Yakima Valley and the Tri-Cities VCBs assumed ownership and management of the Washington Wine Country marketing organization. In addition, the Yakima Valley VCB took the leadership role to expand the Alaska Airlines Taste and Tote program throughout the region. This program gives visitors three incentives to visit:  It allows visitors to check a case of wine free from Yakima, Pasco, or Walla Walla airports on Alaska Airlines; Enterprise Rent-A-Car waives rental car drop-off fees at these airports and visitors presenting an Alaska Airlines boarding pass at participating wineries receive waived tasting fees.

The Yakima Convention Center hosted 125,127 visitors during 494 event days in 2012 and brought in nearly $9 million to the local economy. Earned revenue hit an all-time high of just under $800,000.

Sports events continue to expand and grow, providing economic benefits and exposure for the Yakima Valley.  The Yakima Valley Sports Commission estimates the economic impact of sports tourism in the Yakima Valley was $33 million in 2012 (up 15% from 2011) and the number of sporting events held was 416 (up 8% from 2011). In addition, the Sports Commission launched Pirate Plunder Adventure Race, which welcomed 878 runners in its inaugural year.

The VCB’s website visityakimavalley.org had a total of 252,340 page views, a 19% increase over 2011 and a 52% increase over 2010.  The VCB launched a number of new marketing projects, including WineDoggies.com, a website dedicated to visitors who travel with their dogs. In September that program won a ab award from the Western Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus.

Through VCB public relations efforts, 95 travel media placements and articles appeared about Yakima Valley with an advertising value exceeding $1.56 million.  The Yakima Valley Visitor Information center served 14,492 visitors and responded to more than 8,654 information requests via email and phone (up 31%).

A copy of their 2012 Annual Report can be found at http://budurl.com/12AnRep

The Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau is the official destination marketing organization for the Yakima Valley. Its mission is to stimulate economic development by marketing the Yakima Valley for conventions, groups and leisure travel.

New Quilt Art Added To Yakima Convention Center

Quilt reveal 12-13-2012 016Today a new piece of artwork was added to the Yakima Convention Center.

“Fred Redmon Bridge- Gateway to the Valley” is a seven panel quilt created by seven Yakima area fabric artists known as the Anything Goes Quilters. The quilt was inspired by a photo of the iconic I-82 bridge that spans Selah Creek North of Selah, WA.   Each artist created a single panel that was stitched together in 2011.  After showing the piece at various exhibitions, the group decided to donate the quilt to the City and Convention Center for the public to enjoy. The artwork went through the donation process with the Arts Commission and was accepted by the City Council earlier this year.

The artists are Deborah Ann, Sally Fitch, Anna Assink, Jeanne Strater, Barbara Green, Sue Grimshaw and Nancy Rayner.