Local Attractions Receive West Virginia Tourism Grant

WHEELING — The West Virginia Tourism Commission is giving away $2.6 million to help tourism businesses with advertising, and nearly $700,000 is coming to the Northern Panhandle.

Both local racetracks — the Mountaineer Race Track and Gaming Resort and Wheeling Island Racetrack and Gaming Center — as well as the Wheeling Nailers, the Top of West Virginia Convention and Visitors Bureau and the National Road Alliance of West Virginia are to receive the funds.

The money is coming through Matching Advertising Partnership Program grants administered by the State Tourism Commission. The program is intended as a means to assist tourism businesses with stretching their promotion and marketing dollars.

In total, $695,905 is coming to Northern Panhandle tourism interests.

• The Mountaineer Race Track and Gaming Center is to receive $247,971. The money will be used for advertising purposes, especially as the track gets closer to beginning its table gambling operations later this year.

“As we get into table gambling, the advertising will feature all of Mountaineer’s offerings,” said track spokeswoman Tamara Cronin. “It’s an excellent way to maximize our advertising dollars.”

Cronin said the state grant ultimately will benefit West Virginians as the track is able to attract more visitors from outside the state.

“We will bring tourists in who play machines, and a percentage goes into the state coffers,” she said. “It also helps the economy in Hancock County. When tourists come in, they frequent other attractions. They get gas and spend additional dollars.”

• Nailers Hockey LLC is getting a grant for $199,520.

This year’s marketing theme is “Nailers Hockey — Your Team, Your Town,” according to information provided by the commission. The campaign’s goals are to grow attendance, expand the fan base and enhance the community’s involvement with the team. The marketing plan is to focus on Pittsburgh and the surrounding area.

Nailers President Jim Brooks could not be reached for comment Monday.

• Wheeling Island Racetrack and Gaming Center will receive $165,068, according to the commission. Like Mountaineer, the Island track will be seeking to promote its new table gambling offerings later this year and to market the track as a “regional destination.” Advertising is to promote the track in the tri-state area, according to the commission.

Track spokeswoman Kim Florence could not be reached for comment Monday.

•The Top of West Virginia Convention and Visitors Bureau is slated to get $72,356. The funds are to continue the bureau’s “Follow Me to the Top of West Virginia” campaign, which highlights local attractions such as the Homer Laughlin China Co. and Mountaineer.

Director Dan Greathouse, also a Hancock County commissioner, said marketing will focus on the Pittsburgh area — and for good reason. Hotel rooms in Weirton are actually closer to shows at the Post-Gazette Pavilion than those in Pittsburgh, which typically get sold out for major pavilion shows.

Greathouse estimates the drive to be about 21 minutes from the pavilion to Weirton, and he believes it is the bureau’s job to let people know this. Each week, the bureau gives away a free hotel room stay to those registering at topofwvcvb.com.

“Things will change here somewhat as table gambling goes online,” he added. “The demographics will change. We expect a more youthful crowd, and we will be hitting a different market.”

There is one fact about Hancock County that surprises those in Pittsburgh, according to Greathouse.

“People are astounded to learn that the Fiestaware plant is in Newell,” he said. “You know, the collectors have a conference every year, but they’ve never had a conference here. We will work on that.”

• The National Road Alliance of West Virginia is to receive $11,000. This money will permit the alliance to enter into a three-state marketing initiative with Pennsylvania and Maryland to market the “Eastern Legacy of the National Road,” according to the commission. A map and guide are to be created.