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Plymouth has a popular amphitheater, bustling community and ice centers, an extensive network of parks and trails, lots of restaurants, and a calendar chock full of city-sponsored events.

Yet many people outside the growing west metro suburb have no idea, so the city is starting its own tourism marketing department to get the word out.

"Over and over, tournament planners tell us that everybody enjoys Plymouth but nobody knows what's going on or what we have to offer," said Katie Langland, who was hired over the winter as the city's new destination marketing coordinator. "We hope to tell our story of what Plymouth has and what's going on."

The idea is hardly new, as many metro area suburbs such as St. Louis Park, Maple Grove, Anoka, Roseville, Brooklyn Park, Richfield, Shakopee and Cottage Grove already have nonprofits or external organizations commissioned to promote their cities. But in Plymouth, the tourism endeavor will be run by the city, making it one of the metro area's first to do it themselves.

Woodbury in the east metro is taking a similar tack in setting up "Destination: Woodbury," something the city has been contemplating for a long time, said Mayor Anne Burt.

"We thought it was time to get one," the mayor of the eighth largest city in Minnesota said.

The decision to bring it in-house made sense since the city already had many of the resources needed to launch the tourism effort, including IT, finance, parks and recreation, and marketing.

"It seemed crazy to give it to a nonprofit and put that expense burden on them," Burt said. "We can attract people to our own things," including its sports fields, indoor Central Park and the nearby St. Croix River Valley along with its growing menu of restaurants.

Alexander Todosiychuk, 5, tries to catch fish with a net at Parkers Lake in Plymouth on Wednesday. Alexander was with his baby sister and mom, Tanya Todosiychuk, who loves to meet up with her sister and her children at different parks...
Alexander Todosiychuk, 5, tries to catch fish with a net at Parkers Lake in Plymouth on Wednesday. Alexander was with his baby sister and mom, Tanya Todosiychuk, who loves to meet up with her sister and her children at different parks...

Renée Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

This week, Woodbury hired its first destination marketing organization manager. The city is using a 3% lodging tax to cover its costs. From April 2023 to February 2024, the tax brought in about $497,000 for the city to use, Burt said.

In Plymouth, Langland, who previously worked for Discover St. Louis Park and the Minneapolis Northwest Convention and Visitors Bureau, is the lone employee of the yet-to-be-named tourism division, which will operate as part of the Parks and Recreation Department.

On Tuesday, the Plymouth City Council interviewed candidates seeking one of seven spots on an advisory board that will work with Langland to help set policies and generate ideas to market the metro area's seventh largest city. The board, which likely will be officially launched this summer, will act similarly to a planning commission and be governed by the City Council.

In the coming weeks after the board is seated, some of the first tasks will be to choose a name, launch a website and come up with plans to support local businesses and attractions as the city begins a rebuild of one of its main streets this summer, Plymouth Boulevard.

The street runs directly in front of the city's prime attractions: the Hilde Performance Center, the Plymouth Ice Center and the nearby community center.

Plymouth has been preparing to operate its own destination marketing organization (DMO) since 2020 when it began collecting a 3% lodging tax. The city is home to many medical technology companies, but the pandemic led to a decrease in the number of business travelers staying at Plymouth's nine hotels. The idea was hatched to find a way to promote businesses, hotels and restaurants and the myriad sports tournaments the city hosts.

In short, "stay here" is the message, Langland said.

Plymouth's DMO will have about a $200,000 annual budget, Langland said.

Greg Anzelc, executive director of the nonprofit Experience Maple Grove, launched in 2022, said tourism organizations like the one Plymouth is launching can bring a positive economic impact to the city and others nearby.

"If we try to recruit a sporting event, our fields in Maple Grove may not be available at capacity," Anzelc said. "We can call down to Plymouth's DMO and co-host an event. We are excited to have a DMO in Plymouth."

Langland said the DMO will allow the city to highlight some of its popular attractions along with lesser-known places such as the Brew Pub indoor dog park and Mulligan's Indoor Golf.

"Plymouth has a lot to offer," Langland said. "We are very excited about it."