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|Business brisk at Vidalia convention center|
If you're looking to book space at the Bryant O. Hammett Vidalia Conference & Convention Center this year, you better make reservations now.
That's because dates are quickly being booked and business in 2011 could exceed 2010, a record year, according to Riverfront Director H.L. Irvin.
Beginning next week, a Catahoula Parish civil case involving oil companies, dozen of lawyers, stenographers and clerks -- with millions of dollars at stake -- will begin at the convention center. Because the courtroom in Catahoula at the parish seat of Harrisonburg could not provide the technology and space needed, the Vidalia center was chosen.
"They've rented out our facility for 21 days and their meals are being catered," said Irvin. "We've never had this place rented that long."
Irvin said the Vidalia center "has the audio and video equipment to provide their needs and the needs of others. We have screens that drop out of the ceiling, and have bought a $17,000 sound system."
He said a tractor company recently entertained 500 people at an appreciation banquet at the center, the Louisiana Sheriff's Association had 200 people attend a three-day conference, and the Concordia Parish school system uses the center up to three times yearly with up to 600 attending.
Weddings, social events, pageants, parties and holiday gatherings keep the center busy and the business comes from throughout the state and region. Irvin said the Adams County Correctional Facility held its Christmas program at the center with some 400 attending.
He said singer Mickey Gilley, the Ferriday native, drew 1,200 people at two shows last year and is planning to return this year with almost 2,000 expected to attend.
"The interesting thing to me is what this mean economically to the area when someone comes to the convention center for a functin or program," Irvin said. "By the information I get from the tourist officials out of Baton Rouge, you can figure $196 per day per person is spent in our economy. If they're here for two days that's almost $400 for gas, eating, lodging, whatever.
"There are also figures for how many times that money turns over. Here, a dollar turns over four to five times. I'm probably conservative on that."
City Manager Ken Walker said revenue from the convention center is mixed in with all riverfront operations, which generated $200,000 in 2008.
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