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Inundation of Gold Wings revs up local businesses

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by Karen E. Culp

SBJ Staff

About 15,000 members of the Gold Wing Road Riders Association will be rolling into Springfield for a convention called the Wing Ding, the group's annual gathering, June 30-July 3.

The Wing Ding will be held at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds, but it will also use three local hotels as hosts. It is the largest convention ever held in Springfield, and city and county officials, along with local businesses, are gearing up for the event.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for Springfield to show that it is capable of handling such an event. It's also a great plus for us economically and an opportunity to showcase our area to people who may be seeing it for the first time," said Tracy Kimberlin, executive director of the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The Gold Wing Road Riders Association has 70,000 members worldwide, all of whom are fans of the Honda Gold Wing motorcycle. Gold Wings are large, thousand-pound touring bikes that have been in production for about 25 years. There are two chapters of the group in Springfield.

The Gold Wing devotees are expected to generate substantial money for the city of Springfield during the event, especially for its restaurants and hotels, event organizers say. In particular, three local businesses stand to benefit directly from the show's presence in their hometown.

Gregg and Tammy McNabb own Gene's Gallery, a store that sells Honda Gold Wing motorcycles and accessories for the luxury touring bikes.

Having the Wing Ding in Springfield presents an unusual opportunity for Gene's Gallery: the shop can not only show the approximately 15,000 Gold Wing enthusiasts in attendance its products, but can point out where those same enthusiasts can come in the future.

"We hope that after they're here, they'll remember us and remember where they got that particular thing they were looking for. This way, we can introduce them to our shop," Gregg McNabb said.

Gene's Gallery has rented 10 booth spaces at the event and will basically "move our shop out there" for the duration of the event, McNabb said. The store on St. Louis Street will also remain open.

Another local business, Procycle, expects to sell about 30 new Gold Wings during the Wing Ding, said Sales Manager Chris Pearce.

"The entire week the Wing Ding is here we expect to be doing a lot of business. This is going to have a huge impact for our store," Pearce said.

Procycle has two locations, one in Springfield and another in Columbia. Staff from the Columbia store will come to Springfield to help with the Wing Ding event.

Procycle normally has a staff of 14 but will have 25 working in Springfield that week, with the two staffs combined.

Procycle sells new and used Gold Wings, and right now has four in stock, Pearce said. The store has ordered about 25 more bikes for the Gold Wing event.

New Gold Wings carry a price tag of about $18,000, and, McNabb said, "you can spend that much again fixing them up." The parts Gene's Gallery sells are in large part comfort items: arm rests, back rests and supports for ease during long rides, McNabb said.

In addition, Procycle services the motorcycles and expects to have eight to 10 mechanics on hand during the Wing Ding to change oil, check tires, and provide other mechanical services, Pearce said.

"A big portion of our involvement during the event will be on the service end. We could service hundreds of Gold Wings that week," Pearce said.

In chrome accessories alone, Procycle has ordered an extra $20,000 of inventory, Pearce said.

Cycle Care Formulas, another Springfield business, will have booth space at the event. Jerry and Bobbie Meadors own Cycle Care Formulas, an 8-year-old business with a facility in Rogersville that manufactures and markets polishes and other products for motorcycle care.

"Our business is based on demonstrations. That's why an event like Wing Ding is so important to us, so we can show the customer what our product can do for his motorcycle," Jerry Meadors said.

Cycle Care's products are sold at events like the Wing Ding or through direct mail.

"The Wing Ding is always a great event for us. We've traveled wherever they've been for eight years now. The Gold Wing rider is someone who is very interested in protecting his investment, so those people are a great market for us," Meadors said.

In all, approximately 150 vendors will be at the event, said Sue L'Amoreaux, trade show coordinator for the Gold Wing Road Riders Association. The vendors will take up about 370 booths in both wings of the E-Plex and in its arena area and annex building.

On the economic side of things, Springfield is expecting an impact comparable to that of Billings, Mont., which estimated a $14 million impact when it was the host city for the Wing Ding, Kimberlin said.

All of Springfield's 5,350 hotel rooms will be booked that weekend, Kimberlin said, and the CVB expects to be directing Wing Ding patrons to hotel rooms in surrounding communities.

The CVB will have about $50,000 in out-of-pocket expenses pertaining to the event, and will recover its expenses through room fees paid by Wing Ding attendees.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau has played the role of coordinator to prepare for the largest convention Springfield has ever held, Kimberlin said, but practically every city and county government office, and even some at the state level, has played a role, Kimberlin said.

One such department is the Springfield Police, which has, among other things, helped organize a seven-mile parade route for the event, said Chief Lynn Rowe.

Rowe, who said he's had an interest in Gold Wings himself, said the department has had to make some scheduling arrangements to provide the approximately 100 police officers needed to man the parade.

Rowe said the department has been involved since the city bid to be the host of the event, and has worked with the CVB to "accommodate whatever they need us to do."

"This event means a lot for our community. It allows us to make use of our E-Plex and to bring in an excellent group of people who will pump a lot of money into our area," Rowe said.

The availability of the E-Plex at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds was key to securing the Wing Ding, Kimberlin and others agree. Now three years old, the E-Plex still has room for a few more dates on its calendar, but the slots have filled quickly, said Marla Calico, fair general manager.

She added that the Wing Ding will be "great exposure" for both the E-Plex facility and the Ozarks.

"We hope people will come here for this event and see what we have to offer and want to return. That is one of the added benefits of having this event here," Calico said.

Because Springfield is the host of the Wing Ding this year, it could use that experience to garner interest from other large conventions, Kimberlin said.

"This will help us secure more events this large in the future because the organizations who are booking those events want to know that a community they're locating the event in is capable of hosting an event that large," Kimberlin said.

The city will next bid for the Outdoor Writers Association's convention in 2003.

The opening of the Wonders of Wildlife museum will be a key to securing that group's interest, Kimberlin said.

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