FARGO-As West Fargo leaders work on a proposal to build a $20 million convention center, Fargo still should pursue building its own convention center, according to Charley Johnson.
The president and CEO of the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitor's Bureau briefly discussed the issue Wednesday, Feb. 22, during the CVB's annual awards luncheon at Fargo's Holiday Inn.
Fargodome officials commissioned a study in 2014 that looked into the possibility, and Johnson said a follow-up study is now in the works at the request of the Fargodome and the CVB's board of directors.
That study so far has worked up preview concept drawings of four "sample sites" where a convention center could go in Fargo, including next to the Fargodome in north Fargo, an unspecified downtown location and two sites in southwestern Fargo. Johnson cautioned that no final sites have been selected for a project that, so far, doesn't have a major champion in City Hall.
He said the follow-up study will be unveiled to the public and Fargo City Commission when a consulting firm finishes up cost estimates for these sites. His discussion comes a day after news broke that West Fargo and Red River Valley Fair leaders envision a nearly 90,000-square-foot convention center on the western edge of the fairgrounds.
"Personally, I still hold out hope that one at least, maybe both, of these projects will come to fruition in my professional lifetime, or at least in my actual lifetime," Johnson said.
He also recapped 2016 tourism and hospitality activity, saying there are now 5,508 hotel rooms in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. That's up from 4,487 rooms in 2012.
Occupancy rates slipped last year, dropping from 61.5 percent in 2015 to 57.5 percent in 2016, while the average daily room rate decreased slightly to $85.95 from $86.93.
Johnson said the tourism industry seems to be holding strong despite downturns in North Dakota's top two industries, oil and agriculture, and a weaker Canadian dollar.
The CVB luncheon wrapped up with the presentation of five annual awards to people and organizations that contributed to success in the local tourism industry in 2016.
• Joe Burgum and Simone Wai received the Tourism Champion Award for their contributions to tourism promotion, development and hospitality. The couple's Folkways group organizes the Red River Market farmers market in downtown Fargo, as well as other events such as Alley Fair.
• North Dakota State University's Hospitality and Tourism Management Program received the Pineapple Award for contributing most to tourism promotion, development and hospitality. It's the state's only four-year hospitality program.
• The Association of Rural and Small Libraries picked up the Industry Excellence Award for the person or organization that made a significant effort to bring a major convention, conference or special event to the community. The group's annual conference, which is normally held in major U.S. cities, drew a record attendance in Fargo last year.
• Fargo Little League won this year's MVP Award, which is given to a group or person responsible for a major sporting event in town. The relatively new league has already spurred new tournaments and started updating sporting facilities.
• Don Morton and Roger Gress both received the 2016 North of Normal Award, which goes to a person who made significant contributions to tourism promotion, development and hospitality. Morton recently retired from Microsoft as its Fargo campus site leader. Gress recently retired as executive director of the Fargo Park District, a position he held for 20 years while the district added more than 60 new parks.