— By BRIAN SMITH
Weatherford officials are looking for another avenue to bring funding into the city by hoping to build its tourism revenue and get more visitors into the city.
Mayor Dennis Hooks brought up the idea of making Weatherford a destination city similar to Grapevine and Fredericksburg during a meeting two weeks ago. After meeting with Mayor Pro Tem Craig Swancy, he said he agrees with the old adage — to make money, you have to have money.
“It’s going to take money and it’s going to take a lot of dedication to the cause,” Hooks said. “I don’t know how you go about this, though.”
Swancy said he would like to see the downtown area swell like that of Jefferson, an East Texas community of roughly 5,000 people that grows to 15,000 or 20,000 people on the weekend because of its events.
“These folks are coming from out of town because they’re hearing about or have seen what Jefferson is doing,” Swancy said. “To do something like this, it would take hiring someone to market us statewide.”
Swancy estimates there are about 900 hotel rooms in the city and he said he hopes tourism can become a new revenue stream for the city.
Council member Waymon Hamilton said the city already has plenty to market with the South Main construction project winding up over the next few weeks, Chandor Gardens and a solid antique store base.
“Before we hire someone to market us, we have to have something to market,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton said he would like to see the city partner with businesses who are willing to do events and also clean up some of the areas around the downtown square.
City officials and the Historic Preservation Committee have been working on a downtown plan for the last several months. A February public meeting instructed the group what the public wanted to see before the year 2030.
Some ideas were weeded out over the last few months. Director of Planning and Development Craig Farmer said another public meeting is scheduled for Oct. 28 at the Cotten-Bratton Building to give the public an update on what they have been doing and a final chance to vote for what they would like to see.
Marilyn Carter with the Texas Opry Theater was critical of the city and what it wanted to do, saying it needed to take better care of what it already has.
“We have received no support from the city because we are a for-profit business,” Carter said. “We don’t need to hire a new marketing person. We simply need to get behind what we already have.”
Carter questioned whether the money given to the Chamber of Commerce through hotel and motel tax monies was actually being put to the best use.
“Are ads in tourism magazines really bringing the tourism here to Weatherford?” Carter asked.
City Manager Jerry Blaisdell said the city has been looking into additional marketing and building itself up for the last couple of years. He said there’s more to this than meets the eye.
“Big events like the ones we have and want to have require a lot of money for things like cleanup and overtime paid to workers,” Blaisdell said. “There are costs associated with having these big events that need to be considered.”
Blaisdell suggested doing a better job of marketing and expanding events such as the Red Stegall Wagon Train and the Parker County Sheriff’s Posse Rodeo and potentially making them multi-day events.
“We need to centralize our marketing and get a tourism bureau going,” Blaisdell said.
In closing the discussion, Blaisdell said the tourism entities were doing a good job but admitted there was room for improvement. He said staff would come back in the future with some marketing models and ideas to improve tourism.