Growth In Gallatin

Gallatin Co. tourism officials teaming
with neighbors to prepare for boom

Ben Fronczek
Staff Writer

(November 2001) Warsaw, Ky – The new Gallatin County Tourism Commission members say they hope that someday when race fans exit off I-71 into Sparta, Ky., they will not just limit their stay to the two-year-old Kentucky Speedway. They hope that before the green flag and after the checkered flag, these patrons will be able to better enjoy the recreational offerings that surround the 1.5-mile oval.

Madison Milton Bridge

The commission formed this past year and had two successful readings by the Gallatin County Fiscal Court. Now discussions are beginning to evolve about tourism packages that the budding commission wishes to put out to Kentucky Speedway tourists looking for other local activities to complement their race weekend stay.
“Usually the people who come to the races stay all week,” said Ed Foley of the commission. “We want to develop an itinerary to go out at the speedway so that when people come to this area, they know what there is to do when they’re not watching the race.”
Foley’s inclusion of the word “we” not only means Gallatin County’s commission but the tourism bureaus of Carroll and Switzerland counties. Currently, all three share a brochure rack in the Kentucky Speedway Fan Center off Exit 57 of I-71.
Foley has had preliminary conversation with Kentucky Speedway Communications Director Tim Bray regarding possible collaborative promotion efforts and plans to speak later with another major tourism draw, the Belterra Casino Resort in nearby Florence, Ind. Belterra sits right across the river from the Gallatin County seat of Warsaw.
“These counties have a lot, but it’s not going to take a week to see what’s in one county,” said Carroll County Tourism Director Robin Caldwell. “So by packaging the information together, it’s a win-win situation.”
Area tourism officials have not met yet to draw up a marketing plan and do not anticipate doing detailed brainstorming until after the holidays, due to the busy tourism rush. County officials from all three areas say they hope to include all area counties in this comprehensive marketing, including Jefferson, Owen, Henry and Trimble.
“By getting together, we can do more with our tourism dollars,” said Caldwell. “Those of us who are a little more established can help those who are just starting out. I think right now the camaraderie between the Ohio and Kentucky river valley communities is more solid than ever before.”
“We’ve always said we’d like to partner with our neighbors across the river,” said Switzerland County Tourism Director Ann Mulligan. “We’d like to develop something for a wide variety of people.”
Bray responded favorably to collaborative efforts with Gallatin and surrounding counties. He plans to further discuss possibilities of information distribution with their area tourism officials.
“We’ve kicked around some ideas,” said Bray. “I think it’s a great idea to try and reach out some more. As our county and region grows, there will be more things to do. We need to develop a foundation to tell people about what they can do.”
Whether that foundation is a brochure or a similar type of itinerary, discussions are limited partly to the fact that the infrastructure around the area is still in its developing stages. Road work is still in progress on a new I-71 interchange just west of the speedway. It is scheduled to be completed by the May 10 race weekend next spring. Major tourism potential lies in the future four-lane connector road between I-71 and Hwy. 42. Foley envisioned that this new connector could possibly accommodate new tourist destinations.
Another work in progress is a corporate and private airport to go somewhere in Carroll, Gallatin or Owen counties. This regional airport has been pursued by the three county Judge-Executives, ever since the Kentucky Speedway was built. Gallatin County Judge-Executive George Zubaty said that airport may not necessarily have to be right next to the track. A feasibility study would recommend the best location in any one of the three counties, and Zubaty said they are still seeking funding options and will meet with the Federal Aviation Administration regarding this matter in the near future.
Officials see the presence of the airport as not just a benefit to Kentucky Speedway patrons but other private planes and businessmen visiting nearby industries. Zubaty stressed that whatever county it would go in, he felt it would best serve all markets near an interstate exit. On parcel of 297 acres next to the speedway has been discussed as a possible option.
“We envision this exit to be a great thoroughfare,” said Foley. “Right now there are only 51 hotel rooms in Gallatin County, but we are on the edge of a great boom.”

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