Rick Poppitz
Special to The Gardner News
The Gardner Edgerton Chamber of Commerce proposed establishing a Gardner Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) to city council at the April 2 council meeting, and the council endorsed the concept by pledging $135,000 once projected fees are received from the Hampton Inn – probably 2019. It’s estimated the first year transient taxes will be about $275,000.

Council approves
The catalyst for the idea of a CVB is the development of the Hampton Inn, a five story, 82-room hotel with an attached 8,200 square foot conference center, scheduled for a fall 2018 opening.
At the April 2 council meeting, Jason Camis, chamber president, suggested that the city devote half of what comes in as transient guest tax in the future for a tourism marketing and a convention and visitors bureau.
He said right now was an opportunity to build it from the ground up, rather than waiting until Gardner has four or five hotels and playing catch up.
The City of Gardner and New Century Fieldhouse already host a busy schedule of multi-day soccer, baseball and softball tournaments every year at their sports facilities, and bring many visitors to Gardner.
Camis mentioned the potential Warren Place project that, if approved, will bring wedding congregations to town, many of whom will look for a place to stay overnight.
Also, the conference center at Hampton Inn will be available for meetings and conventions.
“We probably have a lot of business travel here, that comes to our neighboring communities, New Century Air Center, Edgerton, and we’re losing that to Olathe and Overland Park,” he said.
Camis wants to keep visitors who travel for these kind of events here in Gardner and believes a CVB is needed to help do that.
“Travel related spending is huge, and that’s what we want to capture, as a community, because that leads to economic growth for our existing businesses and also for potential new businesses, as well as sales tax revenue for the city and so on,” Camis told council.
Each of the four council members at the April 2 meeting, Baldwin, Gregorcyk, Moore and Winters, commented after the presentation and expressed support.

How much is half?
Steve Shute, mayor, noted the city would want to be active and would have expectations.
“Because it’s going to be upon the members of the economic development committee that’s going to be working with transient guest tax, we’ll put in some controls and those kinds of things, because we’re talking about nearly quadrupling the amount of funding to the chamber,” said Shute.
Strongly stressing that it was a total ballpark estimate, based only on numbers provided from Hampton Inn expectations, Laura Gourley, finance director, said the first year transient guest tax was expected to be around $275,000.
Since that number is ballpark at the moment, council wants to leave some room under that $275K mark, in case the revenue is less. It will still be a year or so before the city or the chamber/CVB actually see much increase in transient guest tax money.
The city also provides funding from transient guest tax funds to Southwest Johnson County Economic Development Corporation (SWJCEDC) and Gardner Historical Museum. On April 2, SWJCEDC was approved for an increase to $70,000, and the museum was granted $20,000 – twice what they had asked for. The chamber/CVB was approved for $135,000 – $35,000 for the chamber and the remainder to kick off development of a CVB.

Creating a CVB
Camis provided more commentary when contacted on April 7.
He explained that he CVB will be under the chamber during development and potentially long term.
He expects an advisory board, separate from the chamber board, will be formed for the CVB.
The chamber of commerce is a 501 C (6) organization and the CVB most likely will be registered the same.
One of the first things Camis wants to do is hire a consultant to do a visitor profile study.
“Ultimately we need to have a better idea of tourists and travelers who come to Gardner, what do they come for, what are they spending money on,” he says.
The CVB will then better know how to target marketing efforts.
Camis says obviously Gardner is not going to attract the type of tourist that Disneyland or Branson does, but there are many other opportunities to attract travel related revenue.
“We can go out after more sports tournaments, we can go after meetings and after business travelers who are coming here. You know, people who are coming – executives or employees – that are coming to LPKC or New Century. Some are here for a month or two, or just a few days. Right now we talk to all those people, they all have to go to Olathe. Now we’ll be able to capture that money, that economic impact right here in the community,” said Camis.
The money pledged by council won’t start coming in any significant amount until the second quarter of 2019.
Between now and then, the mission, goals and policies of the Gardner Convention and Visitors Bureau will begin to be defined and structured.