Missouri State Penitentiary tourism grows 25 percent in 2016

Missouri State Penitentiary tourism...

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - A historic Jefferson City landmark is growing in popularity drawing in tens of thousands of people to the capital city.

This year, tourism at the Missouri State Penitentiary grew by 25 percent. 

Nearly 33,000 people visited the old state prison in 2016, an increase from 2015 by nearly 7,000.

"We just see that whole area as an opportunity for Jefferson City to grow," Diane Gillespie, the Executive Director of the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau, said.

Mayor Carrie Tergin has made MSP a top priority since she took office. She said this year's higher attendance was due to several things.

"One of the biggest things that happened in the last year was the opening of the Lafayette interchange, and part of the reason that was built was to get direct highway access from Highway 50 to the prison," Tergin said.

The CVB also attributed the growth to an increase in marketing funds along with the first "Inside the Walls" concert at the former prison this past summer.

Gillespie expects an even higher attendance in the coming years along with a few projects in the works.

"We will have another concert on July the 1st, so we see that number increasing," Gillespie said. "And we're looking at other opportunities as to what's available. We've also increased some film projects.

And our next level at taking the redevelopment of the prison is being able to have special events over there. "

The CVB also plans to do some restoration work to handle larger crowds such as additional lighting, restroom facilities and increased access in and out of the site with an MSP Parkway currently in the design phase.

"We're looking forward to the engineering and getting the road hopefully built here in the near future because that will really start a lot of the progress to the MSP site for redevelopment," Tergin said.

Tour numbers also more than tripled at the MSP museum this year from 2,000 visitors to 6,700 with its relocation to East Capitol Avenue.

With the increased prison tour attendance in 2016, revenue from MSP tours grew by about $200,000, according to the CVB.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau plans to use much of the year's revenue for expenses such as renovations and advertising dollars to bring in even more people in 2017.

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