Hotel pricing addressed as Columbia wins bid to keep tournaments

Friday, June 26, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA – Columbia has won its bid to keep the state wrestling and basketball tournaments after responding to complaints about hotels raising their rates for the busy weekends.

The Missouri State High School Activities Association last week selected Columbia over two other bidders – St. Charles and St. Louis – to host the two tournaments during the next four years.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau has been working with local hotels in an effort to control prices during the tournaments.

“Some hotels were raising their prices beyond what was fair and reasonable," said Lorah Steiner, executive director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We had to make it clear to them that if they keep their rates up like they have been, they will lose that piece of business.”

Steiner said the pricing issue wasn’t widespread, "but some hotels were taking advantage of visitors. We wanted to make sure the prices for fans and families were reasonable. I don’t want to punish people for visiting Columbia.”

Mike Kelly, president of the Columbia Lodging Association and manager of Stoney Creek Inn, said his association had “at least 15 meetings" with hotels, the visitors bureau, the Columbia Hotel Marketing Association and the high school activities association to address the pricing issue.

Of 34 hotels in Columbia, Kelly said, 14 "actively participated" in the meetings. He declined to identify the hotels involved, but said all were aware of efforts to keep the tournament in Columbia and were encouraged to participate.

Hotel prices "were definitely a contributing factor" in the association's decision to put the events up for bid, Steiner said, "but it wasn’t the only reason." It’s a "healthy practice," she said, for the activities association to allow other towns to bid on the events.

After reviewing the bids, the board of the activities association voted unanimously to keep the tournaments in Columbia.

Kevin Garner, an assistant executive of the activities association, said Columbia's proposal was “at least 40 pages long." The most influential factor was "the nicety of the facilities" and availability for the dates, he said.

The state wrestling tournament will be scheduled for Mizzou Arena from Feb. 18-20. The state basketball tournament will be held March 11-13 and March 18-20 at Mizzou Arena and the Hearnes Center on the MU campus.

Kelly was confident that the meetings with different hotels made a positive impact on the bid. “You need to understand, we won the bid," he said. "Hosting these events is a community effort. We must be doing something right.”

“We are thrilled to have the tournaments in the city for the next four years,” Steiner said. “We’ve had these events in Columbia for many years. It’s good for the community to keep them here.”

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