Lectureship visitors provide economic boost

Senior Staff Writer,
Abilene Reporter-News
Feb. 24, 2000

No one is happier to see the annual Bible Lectureship arrive at Abilene Christian University than Mark Chrisman. And no one is sorrier to see it end.

Chrisman is a manager at Luby's Cafeteria on Judge Ely Boulevard, and each year his 285-seat restaurant is packed with visitors.

"Our sales are up substantially," Chrisman said. "We think they should have Lectureship much more often."

The 82nd edition of the Church of Christ gathering ended Wednesday night with a final lecture in Moody Coliseum. Events started Friday night with the annual all-school Sing Song. In between opening night and the final lecture, thousands of people toured exhibits, attended classes and lectures, and joined friends at special luncheons and dinners.

But even all those on-campus meals didn't hurt business at Luby's, Chrisman said.

Over the years, Luby's management has learned to plan ahead, scheduling enough people to serve overflow crowds and ordering enough food to feed them. Asked if the restaurant had ever run out of anything, Chrisman's reply was, "No, not even patience."

Luby's is one of the many businesses in town that benefit from the yearly Sing Song and lectureship, which attracts people from across the United States and some foreign countries. ACU estimates between 10,000 and 15,000 people attend each year, although many of them are local residents.

Still, out-of-town visitors spend approximately $1.5 million here each year during the Lectureship, said Nanci Liles, executive director of the Abilene Convention and Visitors Bureau. Sing Song and Lectureship, the state 4-H horse show and the Texas high school rodeo are the three events that annually draw the largest number of people to town, Liles said.

The Lectureship was considered a success on campus, too.

"We're hearing some very high praise for it," said Bill Young, director.

Among the highlights were the naming of a proposed $16 million performing arts center for a Dallas couple and the gift of an estate in east Abilene that will be converted into a retreat facility. Ground is expected to be broken in the fall for the J. McDonald and Judy Williams Performing Arts Center to be located on campus facing Judge Ely Boulevard.

The university also was given a 26,000-square-foot home and adjoining property to be converted into a retreat center for the Abilene community, Christian groups from across the nation and ACU personnel.

The property was given to the university almost two years ago by an anonymous donor who had acquired the estate from a local business owner. Plans for its renovation were announced during the lectureship.

The facility will be called the Zoe Conference and Retreat Center, named for the Greek word that signifies "spiritual life." The donors want the facility to be used as a place for spiritual renewal, ACU President Royce Money said.

The house is located on East North 10th between Loop 322 and Judge Ely Boulevard. New construction on the grounds will eventually provide housing for about 150 people. The property includes walking trails and 2,500 large trees.

"Yes, we count our trees in West Texas," Money joked when making the announcement.

Loretta Fulton can be reached at 676-6778 or fultonl@abinews.com.

Copyright ©2000, Abilene Reporter-News / Texnews / E.W. Scripps Publications


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