Visitors to Norfolk are finding more available hotel rooms now that Norfolk Lodge & Suites has opened 27 of the 38 new rooms that are part of an expansion of the facility.
That includes a number of “extended stay” rooms that already have proven to be popular, said Shawn Severson, general manager of Divots Conference Center that is connected to Norfolk Lodge & Suites.
Severson provided the information at the Norfolk Area Visitors Bureau’s advisory committee meeting Tuesday.
The final 11 rooms that are part of the expansion are in the process of being completed, he said. The facility already had 100 rooms.
In addition to those new rooms, the Holiday Inn Express is converting five of its meeting rooms into guest rooms, said Traci Jeffrey, director of the visitors bureau.
Plus, construction of a new hotel at the corner of 13th Street and Omaha Avenue is still in the works, Jeffrey said.
In February, it was announced that a four-story hotel with 85 to 95 rooms was going to be built behind Perkins restaurant. It was expected to be completed in the spring of 2019.
Jeffrey said she recently talked to the people involved in the project and was told it is still on track.
The visitors bureau is funded by taxes collected on hotel rooms when occupied. Although lodging tax revenue was down a little the first few months of this year as compared to last year, it increased in May from $33,264 to $35,801, Jeffrey said.
Those additional hotel rooms will be especially popular during the summer when Norfolk hosts a variety of sports tournaments, as it did the third week of June when around 1,200 youth from Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota converged on the town for the Norfolk Express Soccer Club tournament, said Paul Hughes, development manager for the Norfolk Area Sports Council.
Baseball players were also in town for the Class AA USSSA State Baseball Tournament, he said.
Plus, people from 10 states — bringing with them about 200 dogs — came to Norfolk for the Mid-America Working Terrier Association Trials. “That event is become a very popular summer tradition,” Hughes said.
The rest of the summer will be busy, too, with more ball tournaments, area county fairs and the Seven Cities Century Bike Ride
Bringing people to the area and providing them with a good experience is the goal of the visitor bureau and one reason why it and the City of Norfolk provided a trolley from local hotels to the Alabama concert at Divots on June 24.
Thirty-four people took advantage of the service, which pleased Jeffrey, who said she would like to see trolley services provided more often.
At Tuesday’s meeting, it also was reported that in an effort to gauge the experiences of Norfolk shoppers, the visitors bureau has enlisted the the services of two University of Nebraska-Lincoln students who are working as interns this summer with the Rural Futures Institute.
For the past few weeks, Samantha Guenther and Cheyenne Gerlach have been analyzing the retail climate in Norfolk. Their goal is to offer ways to promote “good customer experiences,” Guenther said.
The two will wrap up their work in a few weeks and provide a report of their findings to the visitors bureau and local businesses.
In other business, Jeffrey and other bureau representatives will be attending a Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District meeting on Thursday in support of the proposed riverfront development project.
The proposed project will make the river more accessible to the public and serve as an economic development tool that will help entice people to visit or move to Norfolk.“If we want to encourage new businesses, we have to have people for them to employ,” said Ron Stauffer, visitors bureau advisory board chairman. “I hope this will help draw professionals to town.”