The recent closures of the Star Plaza Theatre and the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center in Merrillville has led the local community to believe that Lake County lacks the proper facilities to accommodate high economic impact activity-styled events, including conventions, conferences, and tradeshows of all sizes.
At the Crossroads Regional Chamber of Commerce's August Membership Luncheon, Mr. Speros Batistatos, CEO and President at South Shore Convention and Visitors Bureau, spoke on whether a Lake County convention center could recover lost business while simultaneously attracting new economic impact generating events to Lake County. The discussion also shared the results of the South Shore Convention CVS’s recent feasibility study that focused on the pros and cons of building a new convention center and its potential relationship to Lake County’s economic development.
DeAnn Patena, Chairman of the Crossroads Chamber Board and the Director of Private Dining, Meeting & Event Sales at Fair Oaks Farms/Farmhouse Restaurant & Conference Center, spoke about the role Mr. Batistatos plays in Indiana.
“Mr. Batistatos is relevant to Northwest Indiana, as he is providing us information on the Northwest Indiana convention center feasibility study,” Patena said. “This will have a great impact on our community as we grow and develop.”
Batistatos spoke about the demographic of visitor spending in Lake County.
“Think about the last time you went to a convention...When we go somewhere, we spend some money,” Batistatos said. “We are the most lucrative visitors. But we don’t have that demographic in Lake County. There is money not being spent.”
The development and operation of a potential convention center in Lake County would be expected to generate a multitude of benefits to Lake County and its residents.
An analysis was conducted to estimate potential funds revenue associated with a convention center in Lake County. The analysis narrowed down two revenue streams to be the most likely feasible to fund the possible convention center: a Food and Beverage Tax, and/or the existing TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Revenues. Batistatos spoke heavily on the perks of a Food and Beverage tax.
“The Food and Beverage tax generates 9.4 million dollars a year. It’s only 1% percent. It’s not on your groceries, or liquor stores. It’s the food that another human being touches and prepares for you,” Batistatos said.
“If we actually bring those booked nights to the market here, what do those patrons need? Three meals a day.” Batistatos continued. “All those pennies, dimes, two dollars, and one dollars add up to $9.4 million in revenue every year.”
Batistatos encourages a new convention center so events and visitors aren’t forced to look for space at venues outside of Lake County or within standard event venues within Lake County.
“We have a convention center to have demand generation,” Batistatos said. “What happens when we build a center like this? It brings in conventions, more sporting events, other large groups. It fills hotels, restaurants, and retail.”
If you are interested in the potential plans that Batistatos and South Shore Convention and Visitors Bureau have, visit https://www.southshorecva.com/.