Wednesday’s Revenue Enhancement Committee decided to recommend an increase in the bed tax collection from 3% to 5%. The committee decided based on a fairly detailed analysis on how to spend the money based on the needs of our area as a tourist destination.
The recommendation now will go before the Tourist Development Council (TDC) next Tuesday. If they approve the recommendation, it will have to be approved by the Bay County Commission before the tax can be collected.
Now, I can already see where the comments will go on this one. Many argue we don’t need the increase or wonder why we should increase taxes during dire economic times. Some may argue that increases such as these are partial to the larger resorts/attractions or that the TDC doesn’t know how to spend the money they have, why should we give them more.
But, the reality is that we are behind the times here and our competition passed us a long time ago. We’ve been behind for a while, and it is time to start catching up. The TDC and local authorities may not want to consider some things our competition is doing successfully **cough- lifeguards -cough**, but at least they are onto something here.
We are the lowest percentage wise bed tax collector in Northwest Florida, and other areas in South Florida that are competing for our sports marketing contracts are at 3 and 4 cents more than we are. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, if we want to compete, we need more money.
One of the largest tourism segments at risk here are the sports teams and their families that come here in droves each and every year. At immediate risk are 2 sporting events currently being wooed by our competition. They account for nearly one third of all our sports tourism traffic which equals an estimated $10 million in revenue; roughly 60% of that number goes to room rates.
Right now, sports teams that come here for competitions have to travel all over Bay County to play and have expressed their desire on many occasions to play in one location. The beach is nice, but our facilities are in need of improvement. If we don’t improve, we’ll lose the business.
Capital improvements discussed yesterday as they pertain to sports marketing included:
- Enhancements to Frank Brown Park – Add two additional softball/youth baseball pinwheels which would total 5 large fields and 4 small fields; renovate existing south pinwheel; develop one of the new fields as a marquee field with expanded seating and dugouts; add additional parking; add additional restroom facilities. This would total an estimated $4.9 million
- Create a Sports Village for Baseball – Develop additional baseball pinwheels, nine fields total; develop one of the new fields as a marquee field; and new parking facilities and interior roads. It wasn’t clear whether additional land will be required for this. The total estimated cost (not including any land acquisition) is $6.6 million.
- Create a Sports Village for Soccer -Develop 10 rectangular fields; upgrade four existing fields to artificial turf; develop one field as marquee field; and new concession and restroom facilities. Total estimated cost of $4.4 million
- Create a Sports Village for Equestrian Grounds -Develop a horse ring; build 200×300 foot open air pavilion with dirt floor; grade sod and irrigate area for paddocks and horse barns. Estimated total is $2.4 million.
- Indoor Field House – Develop 100,000 foot indoor field house that could be used to expand its sports product offerings to include mat and court sports. It was recommended that $32,000 be used for a feasibility study to guide the decision making process as to the specific scope of this project and which direction we should go. Estimated cost of $16 million.
The total costs of all sports-related improvements add up to $34.3 million.
Other improvements suggested include enhancing Aaron Bessant Park to have a permanant facility for concerts and theatrical performances. The improvements would include the development of a 5,000 seat amphitheatre/concert bowl by building an extended grass-covered berm and developing flat open fields out of the raw acreage that is currently not being utilized at the park. The total cost of improvement would be around $4 million.
As part of the marketing/awareness section, it was suggested:
- Revise the schedule and increase the frequency of beach grooming from 26 times a year to 38 times per year, ramping up the frequency during the peak seasons.
- Add 100 extra trash refuse containers along the beach during spring break at public beaches
- Add 50 refuse containers specific to recycling of plastic bottles and aluminum cans during spring break at public beaches.
- Develop :30 and :60 PSA’s to run on local networks on beach safety.
- Purchase additional billboards to promote flag warning system.
- Partner with Boomer Aviation to fly red flags behind the plane on red flag days during peak seasons.
Currently each penny garners an estimated $2.2 million each year with a total $6.6 million being collected per year right now. An increase of 2 pennies will result in an annual increase of around $4.4 million, which would result in an estimated total collected of $11 million per year. Of course, this number goes up if occupancy rates go up.
The current bed tax usage is as follows:
- 0.5% – TDC Marketing/Awareness/Operations
- Beautification Program
- Keep the Beach Clean Campaign
- 1.5% – CVB Destination Marketing
- 1.0% – TDC Beach Nourishment
The recommended usage if raised to 5%:
- 0.75% – TDC Marketing/Awareness/Operations
- Enhanced Beautification Program
- Enhanced Keep the Beach Clean
- Beach Safety Campaign
- 1.25% – Capital Projects to enhance Sports and Special Event Marketing
- Development of amphitheater and special event ground at Aaron Bessant Park
- Expansion of softball/baseball fields at Frank Brown Park
- Development of Sports Village Complex
- Assist in funding on-going maintenance of new athletic fieldd
- 1.0% – TDC Beach Nourishment
- 2.0% – CVB Destination Marketing
Click here for a copy of Dan Rowe’s presentation