I was taken aback by the recent article in the Mercury on the falling occupancy rate in local hotels over the past year. Couple this with the fact that more hotels are scheduled to be built, and we are certain to face a conundrum in the near future.
We can discuss and strategize “guest taxes” all day long, but if we don’t address the central point of why people want to visit Manhattan on a continual basis, then it’s a moot point.
The Fieldhouse Project has suggested an idea all along that could help alleviate the question of how Manhattan can attract visitors to our area. Youth sporting events, particularly tournament-structured events, attract an enormous amount of visitors. On a weekly basis, parents and grandparents of youth participants from our own community travel out of town and spend thousands of dollars in other communities, all in the name of youth sports. We can be that community — the one that welcomes thousands of out-of-towners — but at the moment we are not in the conversation because of our outdated and shortage of available play sites. We are continually dismissed as a host site for attractions, and the parents involved are growing more and more concerned.
The economic impact from tournaments is strictly an offshoot of what the Fieldhouse Project has envisioned all along. The Fieldhouse Project is simply an idea of ways to engage our citizens in promoting an active lifestyle. Youth and adult recreation leagues can be adjusted to include more availability from a time standpoint and also have more variety. Scholarship programs could be implemented for the inclusion of disadvantaged participants. An indoor facility would prevent Kansas weather from impeding play.
We applaud the City of Manhattan for taking the next step and consulting with outside professionals to examine our current state of play. We are confident that they will discover the startling reality of how far behind we really are. We look forward to learning their recommendations and ideas for the future of Manhattan facilities.
If we truly believe Manhattan is a destination visitors want to visit, then we have to significantly ramp up our attractions.