The Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau will begin a search for a new leader in 2014 as the organization seeks to capitalize off of new opportunities related to sporting events and history-based tourism.
Fred Conboy, president and CEO of Destination Management Inc., the umbrella group that oversees the Lawrence CVB and the Freedom's Frontier National Heritage area, confirmed that he's taken over as interim director of the CVB after director Christina Phelps resigned in late November.
"We're very optimistic about what lies ahead," Conboy said.
Conboy said Phelps, who was hired in November 2012, resigned late last month, but provided no other details. An attempt to reach Phelps was not successful.
Conboy said he expects to serve as the interim director for about the next six months while the organization conducts a search, and while existing staff members adopt some broader roles.
Conboy said the opportunities to attract new visitors to town are significant, especially in the area of youth sporting events. The city's 181,000-square-foot recreation center at Rock Chalk Park is expected to allow Lawrence to compete for major youth volleyball and basketball tournaments when it opens in late 2014.
A new track and field stadium at the Rock Chalk Park sports complex is expected to put Lawrence in the running to host multiple NCAA and other collegiate-level track and field championships.
But Conboy said recent activity in Kansas City also might give Lawrence a boost in visitors. The NCAA announced this week that 14 NCAA championships will be hosted in Kansas City from 2014 to 2018.
The championship event for men's Division I soccer and the Division II football championships will be hosted at Sporting Park in western Wyandotte County, which is just a few minutes down Interstate 70 from Lawrence.
"We think those events will bode well for the entire region," Conboy said. "A lot of times, those spectators will take the time to make a trip to visit Lawrence while they are in the area."
Visitor spending in Lawrence has been relatively stagnant in recent years, according to guest tax figures. The city in 2013 has collected $1.19 million in revenues from the guest tax — a special tax charged on hotel rooms. That's up about 1 percent from the same time period a year ago, but is basically unchanged from 2011 totals.