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News Tribune editorial

January 9th, 2012 in News

Who would have thought prison would become such a popular destination?

The Missouri State Penitentiary (MSP) once housed some of history's more notorious convicts. Tours of the site, now decommissioned, continue to gain prominence.

MSP recently was named No. 3 among Midwest Living's Top 25 New Places to Stay, Eat and Play.

In addition, the site and other Jefferson City destinations were included in a travel writer's account published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

"We were incredibly excited to receive the No. 3 ranking," said Ryan Winkler, communications manger for the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), which coordinates a growing list of prison tours. She characterized MSP as "quite an exciting attraction for tourists."

Tour statistics from 2011 support her characterization.

Public tours and classes focus on: history, photography, paranormal investigation and ghosts and ghosts hunts.

Private and students tours also are held in a number of those categories.

Participation last year totaled 17,203, including 9,044 public member and 8,159 private participants.

Those participants typically do more than simply tour the prison site. They dine at restaurants, patronize stores and stay at hotels and motels. If they enjoy their visit and accommodations, they may spread the word and encourage future visitors.

Ultimately, attracting more visitors and conventions to Jefferson City is the CVB's mission.

CVB personnel are anticipating an active tour season in the coming year and are contemplating expansion of the variety of available tours.

Historic happenings and supernatural possibilities may be among the prison's drawing cards, but the tourist numbers reflect favorable facts - here and now.