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Charleston prepares for Boy Scout Jamboree influx

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - With less than two months to go before the National Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel Reserve, Charleston officials still are trying to gauge exactly how many people may flow through the city because of the event.

About 40,000 Scouts, Venturers and unit leaders are expected to descend on the region. The Jamboree runs July 15-24 at the newly established reserve in Fayette and Raleigh counties.

Another 9,000 people will be on hand to staff the event.

Attendees will arrive by car, bus and plane from all over the country, but officials are still unsure how many will end up spending some time in the Kanawha Valley.

"To be honest, we've heard so many different numbers," said Jama Jarrett, vice president of the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Jarrett has been in regular contact with Transportation Management Services, which is handling all charter and shuttle bus logistics for the Boy Scouts.

"We've been working on this Boy Scouts thing for over a year and trying to get a handle on what to expect," she said.

Officials at Transportation Management Services expect about 200 charter buses of Jamboree attendees to either stay in Charleston or visit the city at some point during the 10-day event.

Yeager Airport director Rick Atkinson said the airport expects its biggest influx of passengers in the week before the Jamboree, when staff and organizers fly into the state.

"We're thinking there might be over that week between 1,500 to 2,000 staff people flying in," Atkinson said.

He said officials believe many Scout groups who fly in will use the opportunity to visit national attractions in Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland.

"They will fly in a couple days beforehand into D.C. and have buses arranged," he said. "They'll do some sightseeing and then get over into West Virginia on the Saturday or Sunday before the Jamboree."

Not knowing how many guests may be visiting the city on a given day has made it difficult for the city to plan special events catered to the group. Instead, officials decided to use the opportunity to promote some of the events and amenities already available in the city.

"We had initially thought maybe we could create a new event for the area," Jarrett said. "When it came down to it, we decided to capitalize what we already have going on."

That includes Live on the Levee and Mountain Stage performances, Appalachian Power games and attractions at the Clay Center and the state Culture Center.

The visitors bureau has been marketing these events on its website, through social media and a YouTube video geared toward Jamboree attendees.

It also has sent a newsletter detailing Charleston events to Scout leaders across the country, along with advertising in Boys' Life and Scouting magazines to promote the area.

"We actually even have Boys' Life and Scouting journalists who are coming in prior to the Jamboree to do interviews," Jarrett said.

The visitors bureau has been promoting lodging in area hotels. The University of Charleston has offered rooms in its residence halls.

But university spokesman Scott Castleman said few people have taken advantage of the available rooms.

"So far, we haven't received a whole lot of interest in using our residence halls," he said.

Despite that, he said the university will still hold a free showing of the movie "Oz the Great and Powerful" along the Kanawha riverbank on the evening of Saturday, July 13. That event is also open to the public.

"We didn't know what to expect the first year, but we wanted to be as helpful as we could to the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau," Castleman said.

Jarrett said officials plan to watch attendance at events the week of the Jamboree to see what is popular and what isn't.

The visitors bureau will also set up welcome booths around town. They'll monitor feedback from people who visit those booths.

Armed with that information, officials will determine what changes, if any, the city should take going into the next National Jamboree.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at business@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.

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