posttrib
LABORIOUS 
Weather Updates

Tourism chief defends air show move, pushes for regional convention center

Spectators watch 2012 South Shore Air Show last based Gary. Speros Batistatos South Shore ConventiVisitors Authority hopes moving show Fair

Spectators watch the 2012 South Shore Air Show, the last based in Gary. Speros Batistatos of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority hopes moving the show to Fair Oaks Farms this year will pay off in a big way. | Post-Tribune File Photo

storyidforme: 62171676
tmspicid: 22449350
fileheaderid: 10763126

Updated: February 17, 2014 6:43PM



SCHERERVILLE — South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority officials are banking the controversial move of the South Shore Air Show from Gary to Newton County will pay off.

“We’ll either be geniuses or we’ll be idiots,” Speros Batistatos, SSCVA president and CEO, said before the monthly gathering of the Lake County Advancement Committee, held last week.

Batistatos said this will be the first time in the country an air show is being partnered with an attraction like Fair Oaks Farm, and that creates the potential for major market partnerships with companies like Pfizer, Caterpillar, Cysco Foods and others who are the farm’s current partners.

He said people who have listened to the plan understand the reasons behind the move.

“It’s no more or no less a marketing expense,” Batistatos said before the meeting on Friday.

Regardless of where the air show is held, he added, it brings people to the region and generates hits on the SSCVA’s website and Facebook pages. Ninety-nine percent of those people who check out the air show pages online indicate an intent to return to the region.

Without a conference center, Northwest Indiana is a considered a second-tier or even third-tier tourist destination; that’s why the SSCVA needs to help create reasons for people to come here, he said, such as the air show and the new South Shore Brewery Trail, which in its first week received 4,000 hits online.

Batistatos said the region is in need of a true convention center if it ever plans to host larger events and draw more people to the region to spend their dollars.

With the backing of the board of directors, SSCVA staff is set to begin pursuing the best way to make that convention center happen. He said declined to say where the SSCVA would like to see the center built because in the past, once a site has been named, the bickering between communities about the final location has derailed the effort.

Region officials need to look past petty rivalries and realize an investment of this nature in one community will help all communities, Batistatos said.

A food and beverage tax will be key to developing that convention center. Batistatos said the SSCVA has no legislative agenda this year, but in the next couple months, staff will look into conducting financial impact studies, a first step in advancing a project.

In the meantime, a deal to have the SSCVA act is the tourism bureau for Jasper County for a fee has gone to the lawyers. He expects the SSCVA board to sign off on the agreement Thursday. The deal will be final once approved by Jasper County officials.



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.