By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The $110 million Underground Railroad Freedom Center set to open Aug. 23 is expected to generate $39.5 million a year in the region, according to the University of Cincinnati's Economics Center for Education & Research. That includes $14.2 million in household earnings and 459 jobs. Visitor spending - at hotels, restaurants and on retail - is expected to be in the neighborhood of $11.7 million a year, the report says.
The report, which the Freedom Center paid for, also concludes that the community will benefit in other ways, too:
Cincinnati will be home to an educational facility, creating spillover benefits in formal and informal educational communities.
Thousands of out-of-town visitors will likely check out other attractions.
It will enhance the attractiveness of downtown, which will improve the quality of life and could attract families and businesses to the area.
Freedom Center officials estimate that 52 percent of the more than 900,000 visitors in the first 31/2 years will be from out of town.
The report was released Saturday along with the announcement that the center will open to paying customers in early August - before its grand opening.
Freedom Center Executive Director Dr. Spencer Crew said an exact opening date hasn't been determined, but construction will be finished in late July. The first visitors will be welcomed into the building at least a week or two before the grand opening, which will include a dedication, festival, and a host of celebrities and politicians from across the nation.
Tickets will become available by Aug. 1 and can be bought on www.freedomcenter.org\tickets. Prices are $12 general admission, $10 for visitors 60 years and older and $8 for children ages 6-12.
Crew said it is unlikely the center will be open the night of the grand opening, which will be held outside.
"We're expecting a very large crowd, and people will be disappointed if everyone can't get in," Crew said.
Crew said he is expecting about 30,000 people to attend the grand opening. Freedom Center officials are expecting 162,000 paying visitors during the last half of the year and nearly 300,000 visitors in 2005.
The economic impact study also found that the Freedom Center has contributed over $305 million in a one-time impact to the state economy through construction and development. That figure includes purchases made by the center during construction, as well as indirect spending that contractors and service providers to the facility spend as a result of the construction.
"The Freedom Center is a major center for public engagement and research, and as such will play a vital role in the economic and cultural life of the Ohio River Valley, the state of Ohio and its people," Crew said.
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