When Beulah Park closed in 2014, Grove City lost its distinguishing destination attraction.

"After that happened, we were at sea for awhile about our identity as a destination for visitors," said Amanda Davis, director of Visit Grove City, the city's visitor and convention bureau.

Beulah Park drew visitors because of the racing and special events held at the track, she said.

"Visitors want to know, what do you have that nobody else has? Why should we come to your community?" said Chris Fulton, president of Visit Grove City's board of trustees.

The question Visit Grove City hears most often from tour groups and directors is, "Why should we bring our group to your city?" Davis said.

"We had a hunch" that what Grove City could offer was access as an outdoor and urban adventure destination, Davis said.

The results of a research study conducted over the last year for the CVB by Nashville-based North Star Destination Strategies "confirms that our hunch was right," she said.

"We already have been featuring outdoorsy images on our website and marketing things like the bison farm at Battelle Darby (Creek Metro) Park or kayaking," Davis said. "This gives us the confidence now to go forward with that approach."

North Star's research included interviews and a vision survey conducted with stakeholders, including city officials and business leaders. Representatives of North Star also visited Grove City.

One of the most common responses when participants in the vision study were asked about the top things in or about Grove City that attract visitors and what was Grove City's greatest tourism asset was area parks, Davis said.

Interviews with "external influencers," including other destination marketing organizations, media and bloggers, revealed a common recognition of Grove City's status as a destination for outdoor activities, she said.

One person stated, "I think Grove City has the potential to own the outdoors."

"There's no other community in central Ohio that can offer the variety of outdoor and urban adventure attractions that we can," Davis said. "No one else is even close. It's something we can corner the market on."

Those attractions include city parks, Scioto Grove Metro Park, Pinnacle Golf Course, the bisons at Battelle Darby, and facilities devoted to paintball, footgolf and soccer, she said.

Grove City's Eco-Fest stands out and the city also hosts a large alumni softball tournament, Davis said.

The city's outdoor bonafides connect to its proximity to Columbus and its large number of hotels and motels, Davis said.

"Someone who is in Columbus perhaps for a business trip may choose to stay here or visit because of the numerous opportunities we provide for them to take a break and enjoy an outdoor activity," she said.

It's not just visitors who can be attracted to Grove City because of its recreational attractions, Fulton said.

"People within Grove City can benefit from what they can do here," he said.

And there is what is known in the tourism industry as the "halo effect" of tourism, Fulton said.

"Effectively marketing your city will not only improve how potential visitors view your city, it also helps draw people who want to move here to live or start a business," he said.

With the research phase of the study completed, Visit Grove City is now in the creative phase, Davis said.

A brand platform statement positions Grove City as "the natural choice for a surprising range of outdoor adventure" for "those looking for a getaway with a little elbow-room close to the big city."

The statement "serves as our DNA" for marketing the city, Davis said.

Over the next few months, Visit Grove City will be developing a proposed slogan to use in advertising and marketing, creating a direction for visuals and videos promoting the city and considering potential changes to its logo, she said.

afroman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekAfroman