Thursday, July 18, 2013

Beware attendance predictions

Posted By on Thu, Jul 18, 2013 at 10:04 AM

Regional Tourism Act, Olympic museum

Advocates of a grand plan to build four tourist attractions using state sales tax money, led by Mayor Steve Bach, say an Olympic museum in the downtown area is a surefire way to attract out-of-state tourists.

In fact, the city's application for funds through the Regional Tourist Act states:

A feasibility study estimates annual attendance of 350,000 visitors, 82 percent of which will be out-of-state tourists. International tourists are also anticipated, though the study did not attempt to enumerate.

To underscore that forecast, the application says other museums have high attendance from outside the states in which they're located. Two examples given in the application are as follows:

National Baseball Hall of Fame: 89 percent of visitors come from outside a 100-mile radius of Cooperstown

Pro Football Hall of Fame: 80 percent of visitors come from outside northern Ohio

What the application didn't say is that attendance at both of those places is dropping.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week that museum attendance across the country is declining, notably at the Baseball Hall of Fame where "last year, only about 260,000 visitors, the lowest attendance since the mid-1980s, came to view the hall's nearly 40,000 artifacts documenting the exploits of baseball's immortals."

Surely, though, with the growing emphasis on the NFL, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, could be expected to boast a better turnout. Not so. The Journal reports the attraction "has seen its attendance drop below 200,000, which had been the longtime average."

The study upon which the city is relying for its museum figures comes from BarrieProjects, which is mentioned only once in the application, in reference to the museum. It's unknown how much the city paid the Cleveland-based consultant, which also worked on the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. — cited in the city's application as a good example of a draw for out-of-state tourists — and the Mob Museum in Las Vegas, which opened in February 2012.

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