Article Contributed by
Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce
After years of planning, fundraising, and construction, the National Comedy Center is poised to open this week. The Center opening in conjunction with the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival will bring thousands of people to Chautauqua County. Get ready! This is a great opportunity for businesses to benefit economically from the influx of people coming to our communities. This is a time to showcase our area and all it has to offer. We are fortunate as a community to have an international attraction being realized here in our county. We are appreciative of the blood, sweat, and tears of the staff, board of directors, and community, state, and national stakeholders that have brought the project to fruition. That this state of the art experiential museum and repository for all things comedic is opening during the annual festival devoted to the memory of native daughter Lucille Ball is especially fitting. Lucy loved her hometown, and the current museum dedicated to the life work of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz was the first step towards memorializing the craft of comedy and a building block that has led to the formation of National Comedy Center.
The National Comedy Center and tourism as a whole is great for Chautauqua County businesses! The National Comedy Center is expected to attract over 100,000 visitors annually, creating an economic impact on our region of $23-million. It is worth noting that tourism already represents a $260-million economic impact in Chautauqua County, according to figures released just last year by the County. More than half of all tourism-related spending is in lodging and dining, while retail and transportation make up another 40%. The amount spent on recreation including admission fees and cultural events represents just about 10% of all travelers spending, according to a report on the Economic Impact of Tourism in New York State in 2016.
What does of this mean for our region as we prepare to welcome the brand new National Comedy Center? It means new dollars coming into our economy and increased sales opportunities for local businesses. As we see an influx in tourists in our communities we must be prepared to welcome them with open arms so they will enjoy their stay, consider a return visit, and tell their friends and family about the extraordinary experience they had in Chautauqua County. If you are a business owner or manager there are some simple steps you can follow to quickly get your business and your staff up to speed:
Hours of Operation
Check the complete festival calendar of events online at tickets.comedycenter.org to see when things are happening. Adjust your hours of operation accordingly to be sure you’re open when travelers may be passing through or looking for a place to eat or shop. Make sure you are adequately staffed and supplies are stocked to serve large numbers of people, this is especially pertinent in the immediate downtown Jamestown area for the coming weekend as we welcome not only visitors for the Comedy Festival and National Comedy Center opening, but also the families of teams that will be participating in the 16–18 Year Old Babe Ruth World Series.
Spend a few minutes on staff training to make sure everyone who represents your business is ready to serve courteously and be as helpful as possible. The Jamestown Renaissance Corporation (JRC) has put together a very simple, yet comprehensive, Jamestown Ambassador Training program available online at jamestownrenaissance.org/downtown/ambassador. It takes just minutes to learn some easy ways to welcome guests to your business and our community. Also check out the online customer service training videos at www.tourchautauqua.com/customer-service.
Kindly let people know that downtown Jamestown has enforced metered parking, but that ramp space is available and convenient. If you have a private parking lot in Jamestown, consider setting up your own parking enterprise for the festival weekend when your employees and customers won’t be using that space. Visitors can also park across the Chadakoin River and use the new footbridges to access Comedy Center Park and downtown events.
Restroom access can be problematic during festivals. JRC is setting up portable facilities in a spruced up alleyway on Third Street between Washington and Cherry Streets. If your private business does not allow public use of restrooms, we recommend posting a notice that says restrooms for customer use. That way you can do someone a favor as well as sell a cup of coffee or other item at the same time.
JRC has posted new way-finding signs downtown pointing people to parking facilities as well as all of the major attractions. Maps will be posted in downtown sidewalk kiosks. If someone asks you for directions and you can’t help them, point them to a nearby map. Printed tear-off maps will also be available from JRC.
The Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau (CCVB) has conducted a survey of available rooms in the area. Many hotels and motels in the immediate Jamestown area are sold out for the festival weekend, but other nearby sites may still have space. Contact CCVB for assistance at 866-908-4569.
The entire festival calendar is online at comedycenter.org. A few shows are sold out, but tickets remain for most events including the Amy Schumer and Friends shows at Northwest Arena. The block parties at 5pm Friday in front of the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts and 5pm Saturday in front of Northwest Arena are free to attend.
Thank you in advance for making your business a true Ambassador as the community kicks off a new era in year-round tourism and visitation to Chautauqua County, and congratulations to the board and staff of the National Comedy Center as they watch years of hard work be transformed into an amazing new attraction, the only one of its kind in the United States. The story of comedy lives here.