Editorial: Pick a visitor center – any visitor center

Historic City News notes that we are anything but lacking in visitor centers these days; for years the Visitor Information Center, owned by the City of St Augustine and one-time home to the Chamber of Commerce was it.

The Chamber now has its own building on the north end of Riberia Street; which helped the merchant owned association establish its identity — not to be further confused by the Visitors and Convention Bureau, which has its building on Mission Avenue. The latest trend for sightseeing tour operators seems to be to get in on the “Visitor Center” craze, as they continue to establish drop points and signs along the major entrance corridors.

During one of the 450th Commemoration discussions, plans to give property to the National Park Service, which we did, was ostensibly to accommodate the fort’s plans to build their own “Visitor Orientation Center” just two blocks from the “Visitor Information Center” drawing yawns from the audience who have become weary of all the hype.

Nonetheless, we have decided to pump new life into the Visitor Information Center — I mean the REAL Visitor Information Center at San Marco Avenue and West Castillo Drive.

After a year of doing, then re-doing, the expansion for restrooms on the west end of the building — after the contractor realized that air conditioning ducts in a 100-degree attic will sweat their way right through the drywall ceiling, we are going to spend more money to make the building Picasso-ready.

At that point, the residents will need to learn a new name that should clear up all of the Visitor Center confusion — it is suggested that the building be referred to as the “St Augustine Community Expo Center”.

Former Mayor George Gardner made mention of the new moniker recently and was admonished by Assistant City Manager Tim Burchfield who apparently said, “The City Commission has not officially considered a name change, as of yet, and it is still considered the Visitor Information Center.”

The facility is supported, in part, through the bed tax; while the Visitors and Convention Bureau handles advertising and promotion. Information services have been moved to a side room in the Center’s redesign.

“At some point in the future, when we get near completion of phase two of the project, we will be talking to the Commission,” Burchfield said. “And, at that time, we will be asking for input from the Tourist Development Council and Visitors and Convention Bureau about a possible name change.”

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