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Gold Wing riders here in '99

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by Karen E. Culp

SBJ Staff

There will be gold in these hills June 30-July 3, 1999 Honda Gold Wing motorcycles, that is. City officials say that when the Gold Wing Road Riders Association's annual "Wing Ding" convention comes to town, it will bring with it a little gold for the community.

More than half of the 5,300 hotel rooms in Springfield will be booked for the convention, and the road riders will also be using campground and dormitory facilities during the four-day convention. This convention is the largest to come to Springfield ever.

Diane Gillespie, director of sales for the Springfield Convention & VisitorsBureau, said the addition of the Ozark Empire Fair's E-Plex to the community's resourc-es was what gave it the advantage in at-tracting this group.

"The E-Plex facility really impressed this group. It had exactly what they were looking for," Gillespie said.

The group will use the entire fairgrounds during the convention, said Marla Calico, director of the Ozark Empire Fair. This type of event is perfect for the E-Plex, Calico said.

"Our intent was to develop the trade show and exhibition business with the E-Plex. This type of show really fits our niche," Calico said.

The conversations with the road riders association started when Calico received a phone call from the organization's headquarters. The group had previously expressed interest in holding a convention in the Ozarks in the mid to late 1980s, Calico said, but that was before the E-Plex.

Once the call came, Calico and Gillespie, along with other officials at the CVB, began to put together a bid proposal for the event.

Wichita, Kan., was the runner-up for host city for 1999. This year's convention will be in Huntsville, Ala. Springfield will have a booth at that convention and will take reservations for the 1999 event.

About 11,000 Gold Wing riders are expected to come to town for the event, Calico said. Tracy Kimberlin, director of the Springfield CVB, said Billings, Mont., the host city for the 1997 Wing Ding, estimated an economic impact of $14 million.

"And we expect to outdraw Billings with this event," Kimberlin said.

The central location will be a lot more accessible for many Gold Wing riders, he added.

The event will cost the CVB about $50,000, and that money will be recovered through a room tax rebate program, whereby $7 is added to the cost of each hotel room and paid to the CVB, Gillespie said. The room rebate has been used in the past for recovering costs from such events.

Gold Wing Road Riders Association officials were in Springfield for a site inspection Jan. 17-18 and signed the 1999 contract Feb. 2, Kimberlin said. This is the biggest event ever to take place in the city, Kimberlin said, and should help the city garner attention from other groups who are looking to hold conventions here.

Gillespie said the addition of the exposition center downtown will make the city even more attractive. She added that she has received calls from groups who had indicated they would be interested in Springfield as a convention spot once the expo center was built.

Since the E-Plex opened in summer of 1997, it has been booked solid for engagements, Calico said. The facility has two 35,000-square-foot exhibit buildings and an 8,000-square-foot grandstand, in addition to administrative offices.

The space is a very flexible space, and there is plenty of parking, which is what makes it attractive, Calico said. She added that her research indicated the price of renting the E-Plex is also competitive.

Springfield will bid on the 2000, 2001, and 2002 Wing Dings, but Gillespie said the group has historically moved the convention around a little before returning to a site. The E-Plex will be the headquarters for the event, but three area hotels the Sheraton Hawthorn Park, the Holiday Inn North and the University Plaza Holiday Inn will be co-host hotels.

Local Gold Wing motorcycle riders are starting to get excited about the event. Bill Young, chapter director for Springfield's Gold Wing Road Riders Association, said the group is looking forward to the 1999 event's being in its hometown. The Springfield chapter has about 50 or 60 members while the national organization boasts more than 115,000, Young said.

Gold Wing motorcycles are large touring cycles. The motorcycles have starting prices of about $15,000 for new bikes, but can be found used for much less, Young said.

Greg and Tammy McNabb own a shop called Gene's Gallery that sells Gold Wings and accessories. They are members of the organization, as are Young and his wife Shelly, and Rick and Anita Green. Often, taking the Gold Wing on the road is a family affair, Young said.

"You see people with their side cars; they pack the kids up and take off for a family vacation," Young said.

Anita Green said the Gold Wing riders are "the friendliest people you'll ever meet."

"They treat each other like family. They are honestly the nicest people I know," she said.

Gold Wings have been made by Honda since 1977. They are made in Marysville, Ohio. The road riders association has been around since 1977, also, and has its headquarters in Phoenix, Ariz.

INSET CAPTION:

'Our intent was to develop the trade show and exhibition business with the E-Plex.

This type of show really fits our niche.' Marla Calico

Ozark Empire Fair[[In-content Ad]]

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