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l-r) Matt Killian of the Brainerd Lakes Chamber and Elliot Charette of the University of Minnesota presented the findings of a Loon Center Feasibility Study Friday, June 8 at Manhattan Beach Lodge.
William Gartner. - photo submitted

Loon Center Study Author: ‘It Should Be a Great Attraction’

Web posted June 12, 2018
By Bill Monroe, Northland Press Correspondent

The National Loon Center Foundation received good news from the results of a recently completed feasibility study released Friday, June 8 at Manhattan Beach. In an interview with the Northland Press, Dr. William Gartner, who prepared the study along with Elliott Charette, said if the foundation operates the Center like similar facilities in the state, there should be no problems. “The Center would be in a ready-made market,” he said referencing the fact that it is projected to be built adjacent to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Campgrounds in Crosslake. “It should be a great attraction. Going into the study I felt that it would be feasible. We know the area pretty well now and think that there’s a large market from which to draw visitors,” he said.

Gartner is a professor in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Applied Economics. The study was published by the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs which connects the resources of the university with the interests and needs of cities in the state. The study compiled data from existing surveys and studies, accounting and census data, zip code information and estimates of visitation potential. Since there were too few surveys available that were specific to Crosslake, researchers drew upon studies of the greater Brainerd area and from the state as well.

The study examined financial data from facilities that are similar to the proposed National Loon Center, such as the National Eagle Center. This helped provide a baseline for what the Loon Center could expect for both revenue and the costs for running the facility. The estimate of the number of visitors to the Center was derived from the number of campers now using the campgrounds and tourist visitor information provided by the Brainerd Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce.

The study found that potential visitors to the Center will be generally older. The majority will have attained at least a bachelor’s degree and they will earn upper middle to high-class incomes. These potential visitors will fit into three groups, according to the study: regional tourists; regional residents and Minnesota wildlife viewers.

Regional tourists tend to use state bicycle trails, U.S. Corps campgrounds and state parks. They make up a large percentage of the potential visitors estimated at 183,350 annually.

Regional residents are people living in Crow Wing County and all adjacent counties. Regional residents, including seasonal residents, are estimated at 295,388.

Minnesota wildlife viewers are probably led by birders. In 2011, 1.1 million people observed birds around their home and on trips in Minnesota. Some 931,000 people observed wild birds around the home. Of the 1.1 million, 408,000 observed birds away from home. That figure was used in the total estimation.

Total visitation projection in the study was the sum of the above base estimates. To avoid duplication, total visitation was reduced by 70 percent. Due to the variability nature of tourism, such as weather and economic cycles, total visitation is projected in a range from 59,155 to 157,746 visitors per year.

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