By Susan L. Wright
The Volusia Tourist Development Council got a big dose of good news July 8, hearing a slew of reports that showed business in most areas was up, sometimes considerably, over the same period last year.
They also were treated to an overview of International Speedway Corp.'s multimillion project, One Daytona, which is already having a positive effect on the economy, according to reports.
ISC representative Scott Bullock presented an impressive series of slides showing the dazzling mini-city that will be constructed on International Speedway Boulevard just across from Daytona International Speedway. He told the council the project would cover 181 acres and would include 550,000 square feet of office space; 1.485 million square feet of retail space and 125,000 square feet of residential space.
He also reported the economic impact on the Daytona Beach area in particular as well as the entire county would be enormous, showing graphs that predicted the project would add more than 4,000 jobs to the area with a projected $120 million in income added to the local economy.
Later, as the council heard the reports on the hotel/motel occupancy rate, they learned the project had already begun to have a positive impact on the local economy.
Evelyn Fine, president and CEO of Mid-Florida Marketing and Research, who keeps track of trends in hotel-motel occupancy among other economic indicators for the county, reported the figures for the area's room occupancy for hotels and motels in the area of the speedway and airport were up over the past two years significantly.
She said the largest percentage of those bookings were due to occupancy by workers connected with construction on Daytona Rising, the $400 million project to renovate the iconic home of the Daytona 500.
Earlier, Ocean Center Director Don Poor provided glowing figures that showed the county's convention and activity center is thriving and it is doing much better in terms of bookings and fees than during the previous two years.
Mr. Poor reported the center was booked for more than 300 events during the year. He said the area had received national attention during the professional Mixed Martial Arts competitions on July 5, which was broadcast nationwide on network television -- an event that had been added on short notice. The Daytona Beach area will receive even wider coverage in November when the USA Gymnastics competition will be at the center.
Mr. Poor pointed out the Ocean Center's mission statement called for it to be used for commercial purposes that would bring in fees for the county. Other parts of the mission include providing a space for the events that would enhance the quality of life of area residents, which means providing space for cultural and other events.
He said they make a point of being available for area school events, concerts and events.
The USA Gymnastics competition in November was a real coup in terms of bringing in business to the area, he noted. Unlike some competitions the center has hosted, the event would involve providing than just rooms and other amenities for the competitors.
"Gymnasts are young folk, which means that they'll be bringing their mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, brothers and sisters, with them. The number of rooms booked and the number of meals they'll be buying will increase exponentially," he said.
"It's definitely going to be a big boost for the area," he said.
This year has already seen an improvement for the center and its affiliated businesses, he said and he predicted that, with some of the events they've already booked months and years in advance, the future for the Ocean Center was looking very positive.
Chairman Patricia Northey introduced Ms. Fine for her report by saying "she always brings us such good news."
Ms. Fine did bring good news, after first allowing that the number of bookings for hotel-motel rooms had been down slightly in April 2014 compared to the previous year, she reported May and June had both been significantly better than the previous year.
While she pointed out the One Daytona project was responsible for much of that increase in bookings, she said she expected that to be just the start of a major impact from the Speedway's projects along with two other multimillion dollar projects planned on the beachfront over the next year or so.
Bob Davis, the long time director of the Volusia County Hotel-Motel Association, was in a buoyant mood, saying, "I think I died and went to heaven."
Specifically, he noted, that was because the figures for overall occupancy had shown an increase of 27 percent for the past two months over the same period in 2013.
International Speedway Corp.'s One Daytona project is massive and will be done in phases over the next few years. Here are some highlights.
The projected total cost is $812 million, much of which will flow into the local economy.
It will be built on 181 acres across from the newly revamped Daytona International Speedway.
Construction will be divided into two phases.
Phase one will cover about 75 acres and include 125,000 square feet of office space, 562,000 square feet of retail space, two hotels, including a full-service hotel with 220 rooms, that will cost $50 million to build and a limited service hotel with 120 rooms, that is expected to be built for $16.25 million. Phase one is expected to be completed by early 2016.
Businesses committed to the center so far are a Bass Pro Shops, Cobb Theaters and a Marriott Signature hotel.
The complex will include an already named Village Market, a Daytona Boulevard and Victory Circle, described as a park-like setting.
Phase Two is expected to eventually have 1,350 residential units and 500,000 square feet of office space.