At the end of June, we presented Part I of an interview with Liz Perry, the President and CEO of Travel Juneau. Here is Part 2, the final installment, with thanks to Ms. Perry for her time and thoughtful responses. Thanks also go to John Roxburgh for his vision in organizing the interview. We think you’ll find the conversation interesting and helpful to understanding more of the extended benefits of a civic center complex.
An Interview with Liz Perry, part 2 of 2
by John Roxburgh
Civic Center Campaign: Do you think the Civic Center project, if it ends up being similar to the last design that was made public, could bring more large meetings to Juneau? How much more business do you think the city would be looking at possibly attracting if we had that facility?
Liz Perry: I believe if the facility were built out as these preliminary plans show, we could deliver 25, maybe even 30 percent more business to the building. One of the things we always keep in mind is that this is a well-used building by the community, so the more it expands, the more the opportunities there are to book the building out for multiple groups on any given day. You could have a community program going on in one section of the building while the rest of it is rented out for a completely difference group…maybe for a multiple-day conference. And we then would have a facility that kind- of pushed back against that idea that we just don’t have enough meeting space in Juneau.
Are we talking about enough additional money to help the new facility be paid ‘soff sooner? Is that the idea? When people pencil out the costs, do they perhaps overlook this aspect of things?
Well, I think that’s an aspect that really needs to be considered. Travel Juneau has business in the pipeline – our pipeline of secure business and potential business through about 2026 – of about 19 million dollars. Now that’s not just facility rental. When we calculate that estimated economic impact, or EEI, we consider: It’s the rental of the building; it is also the catering that’s coming in, and any additional services; it’s the hotel rooms that will be booked out by attendees. All of those services, and the attendee spending while they are in town, all play a part of the calculation.
Bringing a group into Juneau that’s going to be here for multiple days, and require a full facility rental, has the potential to really provide some economic benefit that ripples all the way through the city. And that is new money – that is not money that’s simply shifting pockets from one neighborhood in Juneau to another neighborhood in Juneau; it is a fresh infusion of cash – and that is always a benefit to a community. Having a facility that would be attractive to these planners is something that Travel Juneau really needs as we go on our sales missions and talk to planners about considering Juneau as a meeting destination.
Obviously, Juneau has plenty of visitors, but the vast majority of them are cruise ship tourists who come only for a few hours at a time. If the Capital Civic Center is built as currently envisioned, how might that affect cruise ship tourism? Is there an opportunity for synergy there?
There’s always opportunity, the more facilities that you have available for different user groups. Whether they’re small ship companies that need to provide hospitality rooms or check in rooms for their guests who are coming in, or if we want to have a place in the facility that’s set aside for some regular performance, or even, you know, different kinds of performances that would be attractive to our daytime visitors, that is another piece of that cash infusion that I talked about earlier.
The other thing we want to keep in mind is that the exterior of the building needs to be attractive enough that, when these tens of thousands of visitors walk by the building to, maybe, walk down to the Overstreet Park, we have a building that really draws their attention and makes them think about the possibility of them bringing a meeting to Juneau… so that they want to drawn into that building because it’s so special. It’s the facility that Juneau, as the capital city, deserves and needs, and it will serve the community for fifty or more years, if it’s designed well.
Thanks! Do you have any other thoughts you’d like to share?
Well, I just want to reiterate that Travel Juneau’s ability to sell Centennial Hall as it sits right now, even with the renovations, is going to be challenged because we are now looking at a number of communities up and down the Inside Passage and in the Interior of Alaska – as well as the Pacific Northwest – that are easier to get to, and their facilities either have been renovated or they’re built from the ground up. Planners have all manner of brand new, beautiful facilities to choose from. So, if Juneau wants to stay competitive in that market, then Centennial Hall really needs a complete upgrade and refresh to keep those planners interested in us.
John Roxburgh is a retired State of Alaska employee who lives in Juneau. He has served on the Civic Center Campaign since December 2020 and has been a Travel Juneau summer volunteer since 1997.
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