Lessons from the Pablo Center
(If Not Now....When?)
Last week I took a couple days to go celebrate a significant birthday with one of my best friends since we were 7 years old.
Let me give you a little back story on Jason. He and I wore out the streets of Herington, KS on our bikes and in our teenage years....by cruising Broadway! Still to this day he calls my parents "Mom & Dad" and I call his the same.
He even survived the wreck of 88! He was going to K-State right out of High School and I was going to play football at Highland Community College. I had to be to school a week before he did so he rode with me to move in to the dorms. Long story short the roads were wet, we were tired, the car went end over end down a steep ditch on highway 75 and we are both lucky to be alive. My Mom and Dad watched it all in their rear view mirror.
Jason, or JP, lived with his Family in Kansas City for almost two decades until he moved to Eau Claire, Wisconsin last summer to become the Director of Production and Operations at the new and beautiful Pablo Center of Confluence in the heart of downtown Eau Claire, Wisconsin!
So what does this have to do with anything marketing or Topeka. Well I didn't think it would mean anything but a much needed get away and chance to see my Royals play the Twins at Target Field for his birthday. But when JP picked me and my Son up at the airport in Minneapolis and took us to Eau Claire...it turned in to a truly eye opening experience.
I got to see some thing I really want...some thing I really want for my family....and something I really really want for Topeka...and I think we are on a path to get there.
While JP was giving us a tour of his Pablo Center he talked about it and their downtown with a lot of pride. And as we stood on the top floor looking out the huge wall of windows three stories over the river, he bragged about how downtown Eau Claire had been transformed. A combination of vacated factories and businesses that had fallen in disrepair. The river that ran through downtown had been so polluted by the logging industry that businesses were actually built facing away from what is now a beautiful river.
BUT...they knew what it could be and they are making it happen. The river has beautiful walking paths, businesses are right up to the water front and right in front of the towering Pablo Center is a beach where you can put your kayaks and boats in!
Now it is an area of energy and influence. The area that was once an undesirable place to be has been transformed into the thriving hub of a wonderful city...all because people believed it could happen. Not only did they change downtown...they changed their attitude.
They EMBRACED what COULD BE and made it what IS.
And it just wasn't the people and businesses with deep pockets...it was everyone in Eau Claire changing their attitudes and standing at the river defending it from negativity.
I moved my family to Topeka in 2005 and while I know Topeka has such a huge up side and potential to be great...I also get so disgusted when I hear people bad mouthing our city.
Since we moved the Country Stampede to Topeka I have seen people who portray themselves as advocates for Topeka talking on social media about how they don't want the event here. I stopped at a convenience store last Friday that is within two miles of where the event will be, and when I asked the staff if they were excited, they all grumbled and one actually said...."I hope they don't come in here".
I had a family of 6 contact me last Tuesday from the St Louis area who reacted to an online targeted display ad we put together for one of our Country Stampede sponsors. They thought the Country Stampede sounded like a great event and had decided to come. How awesome...six people who had never been to our city...spending money in Topeka for 5 days! Unfortunately when they found a hotel here that advertised $68 room nights online, they called to book it and now rates were almost $350 a night. I understand Supply and Demand...but come on.
Now that family has a bad taste for not only that hotel chain but now for Topeka too. That's just sad and unacceptable.
Might I remind you the City of Manhattan is expecting to lose well over a projected $8,000,000 in revenue because the event moved? Wonder where that money will go now??
The city of Eau Claire also has something called Country Jam that takes July 18th thru the 20th this year. It's a country music and camping festival. Sound vaguely familiar? Difference is that the city has embraced it. Eau Claire from the top down saw the huge revenue potential and they saw the opportunity to show off their hard work and the pride they have in their city.
My final note...the word eau claire is french for "Clear Waters"...Ironic for a city who at one time built their business facing away from a river. They figured it out!
I am calling Topeka out...from Top to Bottom. City officials to that clerk at the convenience store. Let's see this week for what it is...an incredible opportunity to show off who we are and what we can be...anything less is unacceptable.