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National Civil War Museum: Hotel tax allocation is critical to marketing


The Dauphin County commissioners today heard from officials at the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg about local hotel tax dollars received by the museum for marketing — funding Mayor Eric Papenfuse wants to see cut.

Commissioners Jeff Haste, Mike Pries and George Hartwick III made no decision on what to do about the nearly $300,000 the museum receives annually.

Museum CEO Wayne Motts said those marketing dollars are critical to the attraction’s future because they cover promotional expenses and marketing personnel. Without the funds, it would “severely cripple” the museum, he said, citing potential layoffs of staff and diminished outreach efforts that would likely affect attendance and merchandising sales.

The museum estimates that it has a direct economic impact of about $5 million annually. Motts said that is a conservative estimate, because it does not include Harrisburg ZIP codes and school groups.

Museum surveys over the last four years have found that 36 percent of patrons said they were staying in a hotel during their visit to Harrisburg.

The economic impact is likely much higher when indirect spending by visitors and museum employees is factored in, Motts said.

Here is more from the meeting:

A spokesman for the Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau said the bureau is comfortable with budgetary figures provided by the museum regarding its use of the hotel tax funds. 

"We have already explored all of our legal options available to us. We're legally bound by the contract," said Rick Dunlap. 

The bureau will wait to comment further until the commissioners weigh in on a course of action, he said.

Jason Scott

Jason Scott

Jason Scott covers state government, real estate and construction, media and marketing, and Dauphin County. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at Follow him on Twitter, @JScottJournal. Circle Jason Scott on .

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Jason Smith September 4, 2014 10:10 am

I would have liked to see the museum closed a decade ago, for the good of harrisburg. It was created without a study, built without public input, and has been propped up using public funds.

It is a nice looking building, and was designed to accommodate new purposes. It is time for a new purpose.

As part of discovering that new purpose, let's see a comprehensive planningprocess for Harrisburg's future, including tourism.

James Barbush September 4, 2014 7:37 am

I have visited the National Civil War Museum on several occasions. The most sticking memory I have is a video I saw. It was about the 50 year anniversary of the end of the war. It showed Civil War Veterans from both sides meeting together in their uniforms. I vividly remember seeing 2 elderly men, smiling, laughing, standing next to one another. I was watching a video of the anniversary of a historical war. It showed me that the war is not as far back in our history as we might naturally think. It showed me men who actually fought in the war, and who were then reunited, 50 years later. It brought me closer to that time in our history. It brought me closer to our President of the time, Abraham Lincoln.

If you have not been to the National Civil War Museum, I recommend attendance. If you have been to the National Civil War Museum, I recommend attending again. It is about our unique history.

James September 4, 2014 7:10 am

Why does the mayor want to take this funding from the museum?

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