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Bong Center to manage Superior visitor center

The Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center will operate the tourism information center in its lobby.

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The Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center
Contributed / Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center
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SUPERIOR — The Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center is taking on another mission.

In addition to honoring and sharing veterans’ stories, the Bong Center will greet visitors to the area to share information.

On Tuesday, Jan. 3, the tourism development commission approved a $94,436 grant for the Bong Center to operate the visitor information center previously operated by Travel Superior. The visitor information center has been located in the Bong Center’s lobby since it opened in 2002, but run by the tourism entity affiliated with the Superior-Douglas County Area Chamber of Commerce.

Travel Superior, formerly known as the Superior-Douglas County Visitors Bureau, decided to step away from tourism promotion after the city ended its agreement with Travel Superior to promote the city to travelers. The tourism development commission was created instead to determine how to best promote the city to visitors.

“In my opinion, we need to jump in and not lapse anything with the visitor center,” said Commission Chair Lindsey Graskey.

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“It’s been here for many, many years, and we’ve kind of seen how it’s operated,” said John Gidley, Bong Center director. “At this point we’re just going to take it over and just run it like it’s been run by Travel Superior. I always thought they did a good job of it.”

While he doesn’t anticipate any drastic changes in the beginning, Gidley said he does anticipate following any advice the commission has to offer.

“It shouldn’t be a difficult transition … we’ve got the gist of how it operates,” Gidley said.

Visitors are likely to be greeted seven days a week with the change in management.

“I’ve hired one person already; I’m probably going to hire a second,” Gidley said. “We plan on manning it daily.”

Terry Lundberg, chairman of the Bong Center board, said any employee hired for the visitor center would be paid and benefitted as any other Bong Center employee.

The museum is planning to cross-train its gift shop staff to assist tourists who come in for information when dedicated visitor center staff are unavailable, Gidley said. There have been times when Travel Superior hasn’t been able to staff the visitor center, he said, leaving museum staff to pick up the slack. He said this will give his staff the opportunity to learn the job more thoroughly than in the past.

“I think the cross-training is very smart,” Graskey said.

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The commission will include a reporting requirement in the final agreement.

“I think we were just kind of the natural person to take it,” Gidley said. “It’s a little more work for us, but I don’t think it should be too difficult of a transition. I haven’t met any resistance from anybody. Everybody seems willing to help make it happen … We’re going to work with the commission and get the job done.”

The commission held a larger grant request for operations and marketing from the Bong Center in committee to get more information on how a grant awarded in 2022 was spent.

In 2022, the Bong Center was awarded $164,223 for operations and marketing; this year’s request is for $174,405.

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com.
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As reported by Douglas County.
As reported by Douglas County.
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