The Douglas County Commission will learn Wednesday details of a tourism economic impact study that indicates the industry has taken off in the county the past three years and now exceeds the performance of the state overall.
The eXplore Lawrence study provides figures on the 2015 economic impact of tourism in Lawrence and Douglas County. It tracks such factors as sales tax receipts, employment and wages and recreational second-home expenditures from tourism.
The study shows the county now ranks fifth in the state for visitor spending and that tourism now directly supports 2,710 jobs, which is one in every 13 jobs in the county.
The data shows that after a slump in 2013, the local sales tax receipt growth rate from tourism caught and surpassed that of the state overall in 2014 and 2015 and has grown 37 percent overall since 2010. Visitor spending in 2015 was pegged at $244.5 million, or a 7.6 percent ($17 million) increase from the previous year. Tourist dollars accounted for $38.4 million in 2015 local and state tax revenues.
Larry McElwain, president of Lawrence's chamber of commerce and a board member of eXplore Lawrence, said the report reflected the job eXplore Lawrence was doing in marketing Lawrence and the county as a tourist destination.
“I think we’re doing a much better job of attracting people and visitors,” he said. “I have no doubt in my mind that Rock Chalk Park plays a part in that. We have more hotels, and there are more to come.”
Success will breed more success as visitors return for more sampling after becoming acquainted with Lawrence’s amenities and restaurants, McElwain said.
“This year is going to be really good because of the Junior Olympics coming in July,” he said. “I just see this as something that is going to continue to grow.”
In other business, the County Commission will hear a request at 6 p.m. Wednesday to extend for another year the conditional use permit for the Calcio Village Youth Soccer complex at the intersection of East 1750 and North 1300 roads.
The commission first approved a conditional use permit for the complex in February 2016, which required the developer to obtain building permits within a year. In a letter to Douglas County Zoning and Codes, the applicant, Joe Comparato, indicated that budget concerns and delays in obtaining the complex’s design and engineering necessitated the extension request. He wrote that most of the issues have been resolved and he anticipated obtaining the permits and starting work on the complex within 120 days.
The request comes to commissioners with a recommendation for approval.
The Douglas County Commission meets at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St. To view the complete agenda visit douglascountyks.org.
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