Although the number of events at the Seaside Civic and Convention Center were down last year, that’s about all the negatives the center experienced in 2012.
The center pumped $40.4 million into the local economy, the second highest total in the center’s history, Russ Vandenberg, the convention center’s general manager, told the Seaside City Council on March 11. The best year was in 2008, he said.
There were five fewer events last year than there were in 2011. But those 107 events resulted in 255 days – a 7.5 percent increase over the previous year.
The average stay per person attending the events increased; A typical stay is 2.5 days, said Vandenberg, who presented an annual report on the center to the City Council.
However, the center is challenged in keeping up with technology. Although $17,000 was spent last year to increase Wi-Fi access, it wasn’t enough, Vandenberg added.
“There’s a need for more Wi-Fi on a daily basis,” he said. “There’s not enough band width, signal strength or access points.”
Attendees making computer-generated presentations become frustrated when they have to wait for large files to download, he said.
In addition, those attending conferences often bring three electronic devices with them.
This year, another $33,000 will be spent to improve Wi-Fi access, Vandenberg said. Even with that investment, however, it will have a lifespan of only three to four years.
“It’s a race we can’t afford to lose,” Vandenberg told the council. “Technology might not be the reason clients choose us, but it could be the reason they leave.”
Conference center clients also are choosing facilities that practice sustainability. Most are looking for centers with high recycling rates or zero waste.
But the biggest issue facing the convention center is the economic climate, Vandenberg said.
“Travel budgets will continue to decline,” he said. “Organizations are sending fewer delegates to conventions.”
Despite that problem, however, Seaside experienced a record year in lodging tax revenue, said Jon Rahl, director of the Seaside Visitors Bureau. The tax has been staying at about $2.6 million over the past five years, he said.
There’s a 91 percent increase in those seeking to view the bureau’s electronic monthly newsletter on its website and a 505 percent increase in the number of “likes” on the bureau’s Facebook page – from 3,100 last year to nearly 19,000 this year.
“The website is a key driver for us,” Rahl said.
The visitors bureau adds content on the site every week, including a new photo of the area every Sunday – nicknamed “Seaside Sunday.” A story behind the photo is on the website’s blog.
Historical photos, provided by the Seaside Historical Museum, are posted every Wednesday, termed “Wayback Wednesday.”
A television and radio campaign, called “Oregon’s North Coast,” is set to unveil next week and run into April. With a tag line that says, “Come on, let’s go play,” the campaign displays landscape photos and shots of people having fun in Astoria, Warrenton, Seaside and Cannon Beach.
This is the second year that Seaside has participated with the Astoria-Warrenton Chamber of Commerce. The Cannon Beach Chamber, which last year refused to contribute its $20,000 share for the campaign, joined in this year after receiving a grant from the city’s tourism and arts commission.
During last year, the campaign reached more than 892,000 adults, Rahl said.
In other business:
• Police Chief Bob Gross gave an annual report on the police department. Although serious, Part 1 crimes were down throughout most of 2012, Gross said, a hike in burglaries and thefts in December led to an annual increase of 2 percent.
Motor vehicle thefts went up from 14 to 15. Reductions occurred in rape, robbery and assaults.
Over the past 10 years, serious crimes have gone down by 4 percent.
Less serious, or Part II crimes, decreased by 18 percent last year over 2011.
• Updated the city’s ordinance on taxi cabs and shuttles.
This story originally appeared in Seaside Signal.