Dodge City's two big back-to-back basketball tournaments provided a healthy dose of January Madness this year. Some teams won, some lost, but the games took place in an atmosphere of high energy and hearty competition, and all for the first time in the United Wireless Arena, surely an inspiring experience for each athlete.
We were disappointed to hear, however, that some of those visiting our prairie town had trouble finding a place to grab a bite to eat before hitting the road after a long day of games.
We've heard reports of visitors clogging the drive-in restaurants and even being turned away from dining establishments that were closing.
If businesses in Dodge City hope to receive the economic benefit, not to mention the positive image, meant to be derived from the increased numbers of events and visitors, we need to make sure we welcome them.
Lots of people are working hard to bring more visitors to town. The casino is meeting projections. The arena has scheduled a variety of popular entertainment options. And TOC and the SPIAA tournament, along with many other athletic activities, bring scores of families to town.
One of the selling points for the construction of the special event center was the benefit to local food services.
Now it's time for the next step: making sure those services are available to take advantage of the opportunity.
That's how our investment in these entertainment facilities will pay off for local businesses.
Making it work
If Dodge City is going to be the entertainment capital of southwest Kansas, we have to expand our thinking. The welcome mat needs to be out year-round instead of just during Dodge City Days or just during the summer months.
Entertainment facilities will bring more people to town and many of them will want to walk in the door of local restaurants for a good meal — but the door has to be open.
While it's a challenge for businesses to stay open for traffice that might not materialize, the saying is "Build it and they will come," not "Once they're here you can build it."
The more aggressive businesses are looking for ways to tap into this new market. Maybe they put a coupon in the tournament program. Maybe they advertise special hours or special deals for participating teams and their families. Maybe a universal visitor pass gets you into several attractions around town, from Boot Hill to the Depot.
The tourism master plan addressed many of these needs but implementation has been slow.
As Dodge City celebrates its 140th birthday this year, it's going to take more than a tent and a bar made out of a couple of planks to fully capitalize on the opportunities offered by the Why Not Dodge projects.
Page 2 of 2 - We've built it — let's open it and get the economic engines running.