Paducah, McCracken Leaders Agree To Pursue CVB Split To Fund Sports Complex
Paducah and McCracken County leaders agreed to move forward with creating a county Convention and Visitors Bureau as a means to collect more hotel tax to fund a “tournament worthy” sports complex. The Fiscal Court and City Commission discussed the proposal in a joint meeting Monday night.
The proposed process would involve scrapping the current joint agreement that created the existing city/county CVB. In the tentative plan, the city would own the current CVB and the county would create a new one. The county would contract with the city CVB for marketing and tourism, including the areas of sports and recreation. Both would levy 3% transient room tax (hotel tax). Most of the new county revenue (of $1.2 million a year) would go toward a complex that may include soccer, baseball and softball.
Of the new revenue, 70% would go toward borrowing money to build the complex, 20% would be used for maintenance and operations and 10% for the marketing and promotion. In this proposal, Harless suggested a four-way inter-local agreement between the city, county and both CVBs.
Judge/Executive Craig Clymer said the idea is to generate tourism while creating a self-perpetuating stream of revenue. “That money generates more tourism, the tourists stay in the hotels. It perpetuates itself. It’s a good source for revenue to do what we want to do.” Other commissioners agreed the hotel tax increase would ultimately benefit the local hotels.
City Commissioner Gerald Watkins said, “Whatever the rate is, I think hotels and motels are going to benefit much more than they might be hurt by an extra three percent increase in a room’s night’s lodging with all the added people who are coming to stay here for the sports tournaments that we’ll be hosting.”
Many details need still need to be worked out, such as how the two boards would function so as to not create a larger divide between city and county priorities, how a four-way agreement would work, where the complex would be located, how much it would cost, etc. Harless suggested having more in depth conversations at future meetings.
The city is also working toward an indoor recreation/aquatic facility separate from the proposed county sports complex. Both projects, together, could help meet the needs of the community, officials explained. Watkins said, “We need soccer, baseball, softball fields and then an aquatic center. That seems to be the highest priority that I hear from this community that I am aware of because the facilities are so inferior that we have in these areas. That, to me, has to be the highest priority. So if we’re all in agreement there, then we can probably move forward.”
Harless said the city has $750,000 set aside in the budget to start design work for the recreation center. She suggested this work could also include the baseball/softball complex. “I think that’s a real tangible conversation that we could be having together.” She urged working toward this sooner than later.
Harless said she wants people to know that the overall tourism project is an investment in the community. She praised both commissions for pursuing the effort despite tighter budgets due to the state pension issue. She said, “I agree that this could be a game changer and a population recruiter that we’ve been waiting for.”
Jay Patel of the local Comfort Inn and Comfort Suites spoke during the public comment period. He said he feels hotels already pay a lot in taxes and said revenues are down compared to previous years. He said hotels will pay their fair share, but asked commissioners to consider other areas for tax revenue, such as restaurants. Paducah cannot enact a restaurant tax due to its classification in state law.
As for next steps, Commissioner Bill Bartleman suggested working toward assembling the two boards and continuing conversations at a “high level” and defining priorities. Commissioner Eddie Jones suggested meeting with a bond attorney.