By Joel Hall
Some years ago, four young men traveling from New York came to the Visitors Center at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and approached Betty Pierce, the center's supervisor.
Ready for a night of excitement, the travelers asked Pierce where they could find the nearest casino.
When Pierce told the group there were no casinos anywhere,and that gambling is illegal in the state, they thought she was telling them a cruel joke.
"They said, you can't be serious," said Pierce. "They had flown from New York City to Atlanta for a week of gambling, but they thought they were in Atlantic City."
While most people coming to the Visitors Center are just trying to find their way around metro Atlanta, Pierce said the center helps travelers, unfamiliar with Atlanta, get to their destinations cheaply and efficiently.
The center, operated by the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau (ACVB), also serves to promote many of metro Atlanta's various tourist attractions.
Last month, the center got a new permanent location in the airport's North Terminal, directly across from Alamo Rent-A-Car. Pierce said the larger space will allow the ACVB to better serve the 10,000 people a month who come by the center.
"The ACVB has had a presence at the airport since long before the Olympics [in 1996 in Atlanta], said Pierce. She said prior to the summer of 2007, the Visitors Center was located at the north crossover of the airport, where Bistro del Sol presently sits.
Last summer, the Visitors Center moved to a temporary stall at its present location. Pierce, however, said the location was cramped and offered very little space to advertise the area. The new space, completed at the end of July, has several flat screen monitors highlighting popular area attractions, such as Six Flags Over Georgia, The New World of Coke, and the Georgia Aquarium. The new center also has space to promote more statewide attractions.
"I don't think people realize how much there is to see in the metro-Atlanta area, and in the state," said Pierce. "We worked with bare bones for a year, and in this space, we can display some extra things that we couldn't before."
New information available to airport travelers includes: a tour tracing the footsteps of past presidents Jimmy Carter (from Plains, Ga.), and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (who died in Warm Springs, Ga.); tours of the north Georgia mountains, and Civil War maps, detailing Georgia's major battles.
Donna Wood, a staff member at the Visitors Center, believes the new center is "better equipped" to aid curious travelers.
"It's a lot easier to work here, because of all the space we have," said Wood. "There is no comparison. We could tell them about a place before, but now we can give them a brochure."