The city of Independence’s most beloved resident and one of its newest regional draws are often paired together in attracting residents and tourists alike to the Independence Events Center and other sites.

Give ’em hell, Harry.

You too, Missouri Mavericks.  

The city of Independence’s most beloved resident and one of its newest regional draws are often paired together in attracting residents and tourists alike to the Independence Events Center and other sites.

Uniting history and hockey

In their inaugural season, the Mavericks capitalized on former President Harry Truman in using his “give ’em hell” sentiment. The American rock band The All-American Rejects’ hit song “Gives You Hell” also is prominently featured at many home Mavericks games.   

The correlation between the Mavericks and Independence tourism hardly ends with Harry. Take a look around the Events Center, and prominent signs showcase key Independence historical sites, such as the Bingham-Waggoner Estate, the Truman Museum and the 1859 Jail, Marshal’s Home & Museum.

Look under the “About us” tab on the Events Center’s website,, and a link exists to the city’s tourism site.

“You can’t help but get ingrained in Independence when you’re at the Events Center because you’re getting literature and seeing pictures of all there is in Independence,” said Sarah Miskew, the Events Center’s director of marketing. “I think that tourism and bringing people to Independence and the Events Center is very important to the success of this building. This is really our chance to work with the city of Independence and to show off not only the building, but all of the things there are to do in Independence, including the Square, the historic buildings and the beautiful architecture.”

Miskew also cited the Central Hockey League team and how several of its biggest announcements in 2009 took place at prominent locations in Independence. The new franchise was introduced at Ophelia’s Restaurant on the Square. Several months later, the winner of The Examiner’s team-naming contest was unveiled at the Truman Library. Prior to the opening of the Events Center in November 2009, the hockey team’s administrative offices were on the Square.    

The Mavericks also received national attention earlier this year when former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin received a Missouri Mavericks jersey made just for her young son Trig. Palin was in town for the one-day event “Winning America Back” that drew several thousand people to the Events Center.

“In the big picture, it’s promoting Independence – and everyone loves to get those jerseys,” Miskew said.  

City leaders also enjoy talking about the Mavericks, and throughout the hockey season, City Manager Robert Heacock often ends each Independence City Council meeting with an update on the Mavericks’ league standings.

They wouldn’t have visited otherwise

According to Mayor Don Reimal, a lifelong Independence resident, the Events Center in general has attracted people from other areas who may not have visited the city otherwise, especially parents whose children are involved with sports at the facility.

“It has lent itself very well to everything that tourists come in to do,” said Reimal, adding that visitors often enjoy ice skating at the adjoining Centerpoint Medical Center Community Ice Facility in their down time.

The city’s shopping centers, historical sites and restaurants all receive their share of visitors because of the Mavericks and the Events Center, Reimal said.

“It couldn’t be in a better location. It’s very easy to get into and get out of,” he said of the Events Center.

And Reimal often makes it clear that one aspect will remain consistent at the 13-month-old Events Center – at least as long as Reimal is allowed his say: Parking will always be free.

“It is such an oddity to not charge for parking, and people are pleasantly surprised,” he said. “We don’t charge. We’re not looking to charge, and we’re not going to put that burden on our citizens or visitors. It just makes it that much more inviting. We want to have all of our facilities in Independence as family friendly.”

Where are they coming from?

Miskew, in partnership with Ann Smith-Tate, the city’s economic development director, reviewed the questions of an economic development impact study that will take place during the University of Missouri-Columbia vs. University of Kansas men’s hockey border showdown on Jan. 20.

The University of Arizona’s sports management program developed the survey, though Independence has the ability to add two locally based questions.

Miskew said one of the survey’s most important questions, “How did you hear about this event?,” will determine whether visitors learned of it through the Events Center’s website, e-mail blasts, radio/TV spots or even word-of-mouth, Miskew said.

“Hopefully, it will give us a good gauge of where we are drawing from,” Miskew said. “We’ll use that information to capitalize on where we could draw from even more.”  

The Events Center recently began utilizing Ticketmaster for its ticketing services, and Miskew said she now has the ability to compile ZIP code reports in a database.

“It’s been great,” she said. “That’s one of the things that’s important to a marketer is where are the fish coming from? Where do you need to draw from in the pond?”

Sports equals ‘big money’

She’s still in her first two months as the city’s director of tourism, but Cori Day said she is in tune to one aspect: Sports are making an identity in Independence.

“Sports is big money,” said Day, adding that the success of the Mavericks and other sporting events fill up the hotels surrounding the Events Center. That, in turn, helps fund the Tourism Department through the city’s transient guest tax.

According to Day, Independence is on its way toward serving as an all-encompassing, destination city with its offerings in sports, historical sites and other tourism draws.

“Having anchor tenant in the Events Center is phenomenal, especially one that is as impactful as the Mavericks,” she said. “Our relationship with the entire Mavericks staff is very encouraging, and they are very supportive of the Tourism Department.”

Day is aiming to establish an incentives program that would attract conventions and sports events to Independence, adding that the return on investment would outweigh the incentives offered.

But for now, all is well in Harry’s hometown.

“We’re very excited about the Mavericks,” she said. “We’re just looking forward to 2011 and how we can make it even better.”