Thursday, September 14, 2023–12:48 p.m.
-David Crowder, WRGA News-
The just-completed First Friday Concert Series in Downtown Rome saw a record-number attendance in 2023.
The June show saw around 4,500 attendees, according to Rome Downtown Development Director Aundi Lesley.
It is hard to imagine almost four and a half thousand on the Town Green, enjoying the First Friday Concert, but we did see that,” she said. “It’s exciting to see that when we offer these community events people are taking part and engaging. The best benefit, in our opinion as the Downtown Development Authority, is that the businesses are benefitting as well, which is ultimately why we do these things.”
Getting more accurate attendance numbers for downtown events is now possible thanks to new technology that uses cell phone location data.
“That has really been kind of transformative for us in downtown development,” Lesley said. “Before, we always just had to guesstimate, but now we have access to the number of visitors.”
The data, which does not include those without cell phones, shows that downtown is the most visited location in Floyd County, by far, with more than 372,000 monthly visits over the last twelve months with an average visit time of two and a half hours. As of the first week in September, there had been 4.6 million visits to downtown with more than 572,000 of those being unique visitors. Last year’s Fiddlin’ Fest drew more than 25,000 visitors. The most attended event was of course the Rome Christmas Parade with more than 29,000 people downtown.
Results of parking survey released
Following a study into how the three-hour parking limit downtown affected customer behavior, the Rome Downtown Development conducted a parking survey, which saw 141 people respond. The respondents included business owners, customers, residents, property owners, and visitors.
“The general takeaway of the survey reaffirmed what we already know, and that is we are never going to make everyone happy with parking,” Lesley said. “In general, Romans do not expect to pay for parking when they come downtown.”
In fact, the survey showed that 60 percent of those who responded did not expect to pay for parking.
“They will enjoy the three hours that they have,” Lesley added. “However, I think that kind of perpetuates the conception that we have a parking problem or we don’t have parking available when in reality we do have parking available. Right now, the parking committee is navigating how to incentivize more people to park in the decks and utilize the decks and surface lots that are available rather than vying for the on-street spaces.”
Lesley admitted that parking remains a great challenge for the DDA.
“It’s a good problem to have,” she said. “We always remind ourselves of that. There are downtowns across the state that would kill to have 4.6 million visits in the last twelve months.”