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Berks to take $12 million hit in loss of Jehovah's Witnesses conventions in 2014

By Liz Kilmer, Reporter, LKilmer@wfmz.com
Published On: Oct 21 2013 04:34:48 PM CDT
Updated On: Oct 21 2013 05:58:03 PM CDT

Businesses in Berks County are about to take a multi-million dollar hit.

READING, Pa. -

Businesses in Berks County are about to take a multi-million dollar hit.

After having its home in downtown Reading since 2005, a popular Jehovah's Witnesses convention will no longer occupy the Santander Arena this summer.

"When they came and told me, my heart skipped a beat," said Crystal Seitz, president of the Greater Reading Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Seitz said the convention will have an international, as opposed to regional, event in 2014, and therefore needs a bigger arena.

"The need for much larger facilities pushed us out of the way for the moment," said Seitz, who estimated the county will lose nearly $12 million in revenue for hotels, restaurants and other businesses.

"It's going to be devastating," said Dan Vas, managing director at The Inn at Reading, who anticipates a $165,000 loss. "God willing, we will find something to replace it, but it's going to be very hard."

Vas and Seitz said their respective organizations are working to find something else to make up for the losses, which they hope are only temporary.

Seitz said the Jehovah's Witnesses convention is planning a return to Reading in 2015.

"We just have to plug through this year, 2014, and hope that 2015 is better," said Seitz.