PITTSFIELD -- With summer blue skies overhead, officials marked the opening Wednesday of Pittsfield's new Visitors Center at the Intermodal Transportation Center on Columbus Avenue.
Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi, city tourism officials, and Gary A. Shepard, administrator of the Berkshire Regional Transportation Authority, which operates the downtown transportation hub and is providing space for the center, participated in a morning ribbon-cutting and press conference.
"It is great to have this new center open and right at the hub of transportation," Bianchi said.
He said the tourism service reflects cooperation between the RSVP volunteer organization, which will provide some 30 people to staff the center, the city Cultural Development office, the city Tourism Commission and the BRTA.
The intermodal center at One Columbus Ave., at the North Street intersection, is a hub for rail, bus and taxi services in and through Pittsfield and the Berkshires.
The Visitors Center will be open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., providing information about the area, brochures and related services.
"The Visitors Center will provide a welcoming presence for the thousands of tourists and travelers who pass through our doors," Shepard said, adding that "welcoming is part of our lexicon" at the BRTA.
In addition to its role as a hub for thousands of travelers, Shepard noted that the intermodal center is a satellite location for Berkshire Community College and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts classes.
Janet Brennan, chairwomen of the city Tourism Commission, said discussions about the center's move from the Colonial Theatre began last fall. She said it had become evident the service had outgrown that space and theater activities might require additional room.
Sheila Pia, director of RSVP here, said the new location -- the third for the center since it was at Park Square for many years -- is an excellent one.
She added that RSVP volunteers have always been "passionate" in their desire to assist visitors and to provide information about Pittsfield and the Berkshires.
Megan Whilden, the city's director Cultural Development, said the central location will provide another boost to tourism, which she said is an ever-increasing component of the local economy.
Tourism itself provides $345.8 million annually in direct visitor spending in the Berkshires, she said, quoting state Office of Travel and Tourism study data, and $553 million in total economic impact.
Whilden and Brennan cited Jennifer Glockner, the city's tourism coordinator, for her role in establishing the center at its new location.
Additional information about the area is available at www.discoverpittsfield.com.
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