PITTSBURG — History has been made for Crawford County in 2018, surpassing 100,000 rooms in local hotels in the course of one year.
According to the Crawford County Convention & Visitors Bureau this is  the first time to ever reach that mark. The total demand for the year was 106,079 room nights.
Several factors over the years have led to the growth needed to surpass the milestone, Crawford County CVB Executive Director Devin Gorman  said.
“Ten years ago, the county hadn’t even hit the 60,000 mark,” he said. “Since then, everyone has played a part. New hotels and new event centers have opened.”
Older hotels have been renovated and so have sporting facilities. Access has improved at the Mined Land Wildlife Areas and community festivals have continued to grow.
“Throughout the area, we have more events than ever taking place for both residents and visitors,” Gorman said.
The La Quinta Inn and Hampton Inn & Suites allowed for more rooms for larger-scale events, Gorman said.
Gorman also noted two large projects that have had a “tremendous impact”on tourism over the past few years: The Robert W. Plaster Center and Kansas Crossing Casino and the Hampton Inn & Suite.
The opening of the Robert W. Plaster Center on the campus of Pittsburg State University in 2015 has brought numerous national championship events to Pittsburg, in addition to many smaller events and activities.
In 2017, the Kansas Crossing Casino and the Hampton Inn & Suites opened at the junction of U.S. 69 and KS 400, which brings in travelers from neighboring states on a daily basis.
“The opening of the Kansas Crossing Casino and Hampton Inn in April of 2017 helped grow the overall demand for hotel rooms in Crawford County by 25 percent in 2017,” Gorman said. “With the La Quinta opening at the beginning of 2018, we’ve increased the number of hotels rooms in Crawford County by 52 percent since the beginning of 2017.
“The increased number of available rooms, in addition to our hosting of multiple, large scale events, led to another 25p percent jump in tourism for 2018.”
Some of those large scale events that took place in 2018 include the NJCAA Football National Championship game.
SAE Baja Kansas competition, Kansas Shrine Bowl, both the NCAA DII and NAIA Indoor Track and Field National Championships, the NCBA DII World Series, and the Four State Farm Show.
“Big events, like the NJCAA football championship, get noticed, especially when there are charter buses driving through town,” Gorman said. “However, you certainly can’t overlook everything else bringing visitors to the area – conferences, business meetings, PSU events, family reunions, entertainment performances, outdoor recreation, and sporting events of all sizes, to name some.
“We are always looking for opportunities to bring more conferences and conventions to our area.”
Tourism is beneficial for everyone, from restaurants to local businesses, Gorman said.
“It’s a win for everyone when we have more visitors come into town,” he said
The changes have made the county “more attractive” for business meetings and conferences, Gorman said. In the past 20 years the county has more to showcase.
“People can come to town and know there are things to do, whether that’s the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts, Memorial Auditorium or going downtown to throw axes — we also have a few new breweries coming,” he said.
According to the Crawford County CVB, the county has around 20 meeting spaces with a capacity of at least 100 people, 20 basketball courts, 40 ball fields, 40 parks, and four entertainment venues. 
“We also have many landmarks and multiple museums that bring in the history buffs and folks looking to take photos,” Gorman said. “We have facilities and attractions usually found only in larger cities, but with the affordability, ease, and hospitality of a small town, and we happen to be centrally located.
“It’s an incredible mix that keeps regional and national events coming back.” 
Along with the events and places to go, Gorman said, the area itself is known for its hospitality, according to remarks left behind by visitors.
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.