The Owensboro Convention Center and the Sportscenter were both on track in 2020 to have their most successful years since the convention center opened in 2014.
And then the coronavirus pandemic reached Owensboro, and both venues had to close on March 8.
And it was months before either was back to anything approaching normal.
At the end of May 2021, Laura Alexander, general manager of both facilities, said, “We’re turning the corner. The summer is looking very good.”
In July, conventions finally returned to the convention center after a long 15 months of restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Kentucky Water & Wastewater Operators Association was the first to return.
“We are expecting a larger turnout for conventions in 2022,” Alexander said. “Fourteen conventions that represent over 8,600 hotel room nights have already committed to 2022, and we still have more that are in the works.
“We only had five conventions in 2021.”
Alexander said the largest conventions planned for 2022 are the Kentucky Bar Association in June and the Kentucky League of Cities in September.
Those, she said, are “the two largest conventions that we have previously held at the convention center.”
The Kentucky United Methodist Annual Convention in June is also expected to bring a lot of people to town.
Doug Sheldon, who owns a 50,000-square-foot haunted attraction in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is bringing his Fear Expo Live to the convention center on Jan. 21-23.
He said earlier that he’s expecting it to draw 4,000 people from across the country who operate haunted attractions.
That would be the largest convention and trade show the city has ever seen.
“The most impressive number to look at in 2022 is the number of committed hotel room nights at 13,000,” Alexander said. “We have never had that many room nights pre-committed in a single year and we plan to still add more.
“We have six sporting events that have confirmed in the first half of 2022. Many of these were scheduled to happen in 2021, but had to postpone due to COVID.”
Others are new, Alexander said.
“With the addition of the temporary sports floor that can be put down over top of our Expo floor, we have been able to secure the futsal tournament in December, plus an additional volleyball tournament coming in May,” she said. “Our sales team is working with regional and local tournament organizers to host additional sporting events that we otherwise would not be able to host.
“Concerts are returning in 2022 with a larger force. Many artists were not able to get out and tour in 2021, which is a large source of their income. We just announced Tracy Lawrence and Clay Walker at the Sportscenter for March 19, 2022, and hope to announce a few more shortly.”