Chesterton Tribune



Dunes Visitor Center theater to get upgrades

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The video equipment in the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center’s theater will be fully replaced soon.

At yesterday’s Tourism Board meeting, Board President Mitch Peters said the theater should be a priority since summer is peak visitor season at the Dunes.

Executive Director of Dunes Tourism Lorelei Weimer said the video equipment in the theater is woefully outdated, and she’s gotten quotes for both a temporary fix and a total rehaul of the projection, sound, and lighting equipment and the software that runs it.

The “band-aid fix” would be approximately $3,000 to update the software but not replace any equipment, leaving some things incompatible. The total rehaul would be about $25,000 from Portage-based Xorco Technology, a company that’s done a lot of work at the Visitor Center over the years.

“We don’t want to do that band-aid fix. We know that’s only going to lead to other issues and breakage,” Weimer said.

The National Park will fund the upgrades, and those funds won’t be available until August. However, Weimer said Tourism has the funds to buy the new equipment and be reimbursed later. A timeline hasn’t yet been established for the work.

In another facilities upgrade, Weimer reported the oldest of five rooftop HVAC units at the Visitor Center was replaced. Now all five units are relatively new, and expected to last 10 years.

Weimer said Tourism got its money’s worth out of the old unit, which exceeded its expected lifespan and lasted at least 13 years.

Staff Reports

Assistant Director Christine Livingston reported progress continues on the Native American Trail. Livingston said the National Park just secured another grant for work on the trail, a $50,000 grant from the Challenge Cost Share Outdoor Foundation. The new grant is a 50/50 match, and Tourism’s $25,000 match can be made in in-kind services.

Livingston also said Tourism is working on a digital campaign with Cornell, a large bird watching publication she described as the Wikipedia of the birding world.

Weimer noted that the dunes get visits from lots of unique birds year-round, so tapping into the birding community is a way to boost off-peak visitation. “One of the things we’re really focused on is niche markets, and we’re excited about niche markets like this because we can go year-round.”

Weimer said one of the most successful digital marketing strategies for Tourism has been working with “influencers” who visit the dunes.

“They come and experience our destination, and then they write about it. We will only work with people who actually visit the destination because we want to make sure they tell the experience from their perspective,” Weimer said.

Weimer said blogs from these influencers generate a lot of interest, based on website metrics. “We find that people stay on those pages an average of four plus minutes, which in the digital world is a really good length of time.”


The Board also approved a draft of the 2020 budget yesterday. Weimer said the new budget proposes an increase of $65,000 to the marketing line item, bringing the 2020 marketing budget to $300,000 up from $235,000.

Weimer said the new budget also includes an increase to hourly salaries from $67,000 to $70,000. Weimer said an increase in visitation since the National Lakeshore became the National Park necessitates more funds for front desk staff at the Visitor Center. The total proposed 2020 budget is $2,033,701.

Board Treasurer Richard Riley reported the innkeeper’s tax collection for May was $93,153.33, which is an increase of 4.6% over May 2018.




Posted 6/21/2019




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