We’ve all seen a multitude of changes in our community, especially in the travel and hospitality industry.
There has been expansion at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, the growth of Huntsville Museum of Art into its role as centerpiece of Big Spring International Park, the emergence of the old textile factory at Lowe Mill into a nationally recognized arts and entertainment area.
Burritt on the Mountain, the EarlyWorks Museum and the Huntsville Botanical Garden have all grown and improved to meet the increasing needs of the community and have enhanced the quality of life that we all enjoy.
Looking back, it becomes evident that much of our success as a city is due to our ability to rise to the challenge of change, to recognize the need for growth and to embrace it.
It’s now time for one of our most iconic facilities to grow again.
We need to expand and enhance the Von Braun Center.
We can do so without a financial burden on local residents. An increase in the lodging tax and surcharge, which is paid by out-of-town guests staying in hotels, combined with the increased revenue from new (and larger) convention groups, will ultimately generate above and beyond the necessary revenue. The funding mechanism for the expansion and renovation is a win for locals.
As President/CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau, I’ve seen first-hand the need for more room at the Von Braun Center to accommodate several of the larger conferences and meetings currently held there as well as space to attract new business and the economic benefits it brings to our area.
Did you know that in 2016, travel and tourism had an economic impact in Madison County of nearly $1.2 billion? Additionally, more than 15,400 people were employed in the hospitality industry, and each household in the county experienced $650 in tax relief due to our visitors.
Of course, the additional facilities will also benefit local residents who attend a wide variety of events and activities in the Von Braun Center. Huntsville is the third largest city in Alabama, with projections pointing to Huntsville surpassing Birmingham in less than 10 years as the largest city in the state. As we look to the future and work to further improve all aspects of life for our citizens, we must have public gathering space to support residents and visitors alike.
The Von Braun Center holds special memories for most locals. Whether it’s walking across the stage for your high school graduation, going on a special date to a hockey game or concert or growing professionally at a meeting, trade show or awards banquet, many a milestone has been reached within the walls of the VBC.
The Von Braun Center serves our community very well as an outstanding venue for a vast array of special events and activities. This community’s claim to fame is space, and the Von Braun Center now needs more of it.
You don’t get to be a “Rocket City,” a “Gig City” or any of the other monikers Huntsville is known for by shying away from progress.
This is an exciting opportunity for Huntsville to continue “onward and upward,” and as a hospitality professional, I look forward to seeing the positive effects this expansion will have on our industry. But beyond that, as a local who’s proud to call Huntsville home, I look forward to welcoming even more people to experience our very special city.
Bird’s eye view of proposed expansion
Judy Ryals is the President/CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau. She has been appointed by six governors to serve on the Advisory Board of the Alabama Tourism Department and currently serves as Chairman. She was one of the first females to serve as a board member of the International Association of Convention & Visitor Bureaus.