Editorial: Visitors Center better on Mass.

photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration

Lawrence Journal-World Editorial

It makes sense for Explore Lawrence to move the Lawrence Visitors Center from Second Street in North Lawrence to the 800 block of Massachusetts Street.

Explore Lawrence expects the move to the new site to occur by March. The new site is the former Juice Stop location at 812 Massachusetts St.

No doubt, moving from the current site in the historic Union Pacific Railroad Depot just north of the river to a site in the heart of Massachusetts Street will drive more visitors to the center. Current traffic is about 10 visitors per day or 3,650 per year. Explore Lawrence Executive Director Michael Davidson expects the number of visitors to quadruple with the move downtown.

“We want to provide a service to visitors, so we need to be where the visitors are,” Davidson said.

The center provides information about the city of Lawrence and its local entertainment, food and activity options, among other things, to visitors to the city. Davidson said the move can allow the center to better serve local entertainment venues by becoming a ticket hub and helping visitors better plan their time in town.

The move will have an impact on Explore Lawrence’s budget. The center leases the historic depot from the city for free. The new site will require costs for rent and utilities, for which Explore Lawrence budgeted $40,000. The funding largely comes from the city’s transient guest tax, which is collected from guests at local hotels.

But the move should more than pay for itself. If the traffic increase is as much as Davidson anticipates, it will allow the center to market Lawrence and its businesses to significantly more people and thus drive critically important visitor revenues.

The move does raise the question of the best long-term use for the historic Union Pacific Depot, which the city rescued from being demolished in the early 1990s and completed a major renovation of in 1996. The Depot hosted 333 events that generated about $40,000 for the city last year. The city expects that to be similar this year and continue in the near future.

Having the Visitors Center on Massachusetts Street is a logical move that allows Explore Lawrence to market the city to far more guests. That’s in everyone’s best interests.

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