Tourism Expected to Boom in 2018

2018 could set a record for tourism in Owensboro.

The $15.3 million International Bluegrass Music Center at Second and Frederica streets will have a big grand opening celebration.

But the date hasn’t been set yet.

Chris Joslin, executive director of the museum, said recently that the opening of the new center had previously been set to coincide with the museum’s ROMP Fest in June.

But, he said, “We’ve decided that the opening will be big enough to be its own event. We’re planning a gala, special performances and a community celebration for the grand opening.”

Details will be announced probably in January, he said.

ROMP Fest, on June 27-30 in Yellow Creek Park, recently announced its headliners — Alison Krauss, Ricky Skaggs and Sam Bush.

And it’s hoping to top the 26,000 tickets it sold last year.

O.Z. Tyler Distillery will become the western gateway to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail next summer.

The trail drew more than 1 million visitors last year.

And if even one-tenth of those visit the Owensboro distillery, that would be 100,000 people.

The distillery has also announced plans for a banquet hall, small hotel, cocktail lounge and a restaurant.

On the sports scene, Owensboro will be softball central next fall when 125 to 150 adult softball teams from across the country roll into town for the 2018 NSA Super World Series.

Jared Bratcher, sports marketing director for the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau, estimates that the three-day tournament, scheduled for Oct. 5-7, 2018, will have an economic impact of more than $2.2 million on the community.

That’s the minimum, he said.

The tournament, which Bratcher calls the “granddaddy of all adult softball tournaments,” is expected to draw between 6,250 and 7,500 people from across the country.

Two new hotels — a 63-room Best Western on Goetz Drive and a TownePlace Suites in Gateway Commons — are scheduled to open in 2018.

And a third downtown hotel — still unnamed — is slated to break ground in late 2018.

“Owensboro is a city on the move,” Mark Calitri, CVB president, said this week. “It’s going to be a busy year.”

The Kentucky Travel Industry Association has scheduled its annual conference for Owensboro next year, he said.

“For the past several years, it’s rotated between Northern Kentucky, Louisville, Lexington and Bowling Green,” Calitri said. “They’re moving here from Bowling Green next year.”

“We’re trying to get every association in the state signed up for conventions in Owensboro,” he said.

Dave Kirk, the CVB’s director of destination management, said the agency will be focusing on a new digital marketing plan next year that expands its use of social media.

Kirk said the CVB will be able to target motorsports fans, bluegrass fans, bourbon fans and others within any radius it chooses.

Calitri said the agency will introduce a new website at the first of the year and a new visitors guide in both print and digital versions.

Kirk said the CVB will have a visitor information booth at local conventions next year staffed with volunteers who will “tell the Owensboro story.”

He said the agency will also be promoting Owensboro’s new Lyft ride-sharing service at the convention center, hotels, restaurants and bars.

“People are asking for it,” Kirk said. “The other night, we had five drivers all working at the same time.”

Click here for the full Messenger-Inquirer article written by Keith Lawrence.