Convention board OKs agreement for tourism revenue

DAVID B. SNOW | The Sun

McCracken Fiscal Court Commissioner Eddie Jones (right) speaks of how an interlocal agreement can help bolster sports tourism in the county, including the use of the Schroeder Expo Center as a sports venue, as VenuWorks Vice President Russell Ferguson listens.

The Paducah-McCracken County Convention Center Corporation Board approved an interlocal agreement that would bring more tax revenue to the Carroll Convention Center, the Schroeder Expo Center and the Dome Pavilion.

The vote came at a special meeting Wednesday.

"It will provide a significant increase in our funding," said Board Chair Mark Whitlow after the meeting. "I hope that we can set aside some of the money into an account for future capital improvement issues like a roof or (heating and air conditioning). I think that's the responsible thing to do.

"The county would like for us to use the money to buy equipment for the expo center compatible for sporting events, which I think is a wonderful synergy with the county's theory, where they wouldn't have to build another (sports) building and just use ours. I think that's a win-win."

Whitlow said VenuWorks, the third-party management company that oversees operations of the buildings, would like to use the additional funding to add to the staff, particularly in the area of marketing.

VenuWorks Vice President Russell Ferguson was on hand for the special meeting.

The agreement provides for the separation of McCracken County from the Paducah-McCracken County Tourist and Convention Commission -- also known as the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) -- and forming a new entity, the McCracken County Sports Tourism Commission.

That would enable the fiscal court to levy a 6% transient room tax on hotels and other similar room rental facilities within the county.

The agreement must first be approved by the Paducah City Commission, McCracken Fiscal Court, the CVB, the Paducah-McCracken County Convention Center Corporation and the McCracken County Sports Tourism Commission. The convention center board was the first entity to approve the agreement.

Once approved, the breakdown of city and county transient room taxes would be:

• City tax: 4% total -- 3% for the Paducah Convention and Visitors Bureau and 1% for the Paducah-McCracken County Convention Center Corporation.

• County tax: 6% total -- 3% to the Sports Tourism Commission, 2% for the Carroll Convention Center and Carson Center escrow accounts for bond debt and 1% for a convention center.

Language in the agreement does not specify the Carroll Convention Center as being the recipient of the county's 1% tax, but says that money should go to "a convention center in McCracken County designated by the fiscal court as the county convention center."

"There was some concern, I think, with (Paducah) City Commission members that the fiscal court would decide which is the official convention center of the county," said board member Bill Bartleman, who is also a county commissioner. "I think they were fearful that we had some ulterior motive, that a year down the line, we would pull our funding from (the convention center) and move it to another, and that's far from the truth.

"I think it all gets down to accountability. One of the big things I'm always concerned about is when they collect tax money and then turn it over to a non-elected body to use as they see fit. Sometimes, they could get out of sync with what's best for the community. This is just a provision that the county would have some oversight."

Commissioner Eddie Jones of the McCracken Fiscal Court spelled out details of the agreement with board members at the meeting and spoke about a planned sportsplex to be paid for through the county's transient room tax and the potential of using the expo center for sports events to improve tourism in the sports area.

"I had never really considered the synergistic effect of (the expo center) and sports tourism," he said, mentioning volleyball as a possible activity to be played in the expo center. "I think this interlocal agreement puts us in that direction."

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