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If you build it, you still have to advertise

POSTED September 29, 2009 10:42 p.m.
Here’s a challenge, Journal readers.
Sit down at your nearest computer, visit the search engine of your choice, and try to find a facility to hold a soccer tournament in the Central Valley. Pretend you’re a little league baseball commissioner and search for a set of fields for your year-ending tournament.
Heck, Google up a patch of shovel-ready industrial park alongside Highway 99 while you’re at it.
Maybe I’m not using the right search terms. Maybe my Google-fu is weak.
All I know is that, try as I might, I don’t see the Turlock Regional Sports Complex, Pedretti Park, or the Westside Industrial Specific Plan anywhere in my results without searching for them by name.
If I said that Turlock’s Internet non-presence troubled me, I’d be making quite the understatement.
Times are tough here in Turlock; everyone knows that. The City of Turlock needs every last tax dollar they can eke out of a populace that is oftentimes reluctant to even supersize their value meal in this economic climate.
I understand that funding for things like marketing may be limited, but if no one knows you’re selling, then no one is going to buy. The costs of running a dedicated Web site for each of Turlock’s main attractions is so miniscule — less than $100 per year, per site — that I frankly believe there’s no excuse to not advertise online.
Turlock generates a staggering amount of tax revenue each year from people who don’t even live in Turlock, who visit our town just to play a game of softball or soccer every once in a while. All of these visitors buy gasoline, food, and hotel rooms — and help our local economy in the process.
If we want more tax dollars, we simply must do more to attract players to our city. We have to showcase our assets and publicize the fact that our fields are among the best — and most affordable — in the Valley.
If I were a tournament organizer, my first stop in the search for facilities would be the Internet. If I were a spare-time softball enthusiast, I’d hit the web to find out about leagues in the Central Valley.
Turlock’s fields have a web presence that is almost nonexistent. Other than a brief mention in a confusing segment of the City of Turlock’s Web site, and a “Coming soon!” note in the Sports Facility Guide section of the Turlock Convention and Visitors Bureau site, there’s nothing of note to be found on the Internet.
The Westside Industrial Specific Plan — Turlock’s planned 2,600-acre industrial park, with over $14.6 million already spent or committed on infrastructure alone — is even more vital to the city’s economic well being than a few weekends of soccer tournaments. Unfortunately, the WISP suffers the same Internet exile, with just a highly informative but user-unfriendly and difficult to locate corner of the City of Turlock Web site to its name.
I haven’t even mentioned the fact that Turlock’s War Memorial, Senior Center, and Rube Boesch Center are available for rent as banquet, reception, or meeting halls. That’s because I frankly forgot about them until right now, and then spent five minutes clicking around at the City of Turlock site to find them.
Heck, I didn’t even know that you could reserve space in Crane, Donnelly, Pedretti, and Broadway parks for barbecues and whatnot until I stumbled upon the reservation page this very instant.
I’m not arguing that the City of Turlock needs to be at the forefront of technology here. We don’t need Facebook pages for each facility, nor do we need Twitter feeds or iPhone apps.
We simply need to do a better job of informing the public about the facilities we have to offer.
The Turlock Regional Sports Complex, the WISP, and the myriad other rental facilities in town are no fields of dreams. We can’t just build these facilities and expect ghostly patrons to come out of the woodwork.
A thousand dollars spent on marketing our city’s amenities through search engine optimized Web sites would generate an exponential return in tax revenues for our city.
To learn more about Alex Cantatore, visit his Web site.

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