Richard Lawson exposes the public price tag of landing the 2014 NCAA Women's Final Four: $1.75 million from hotel tax revenues (a percentage of the hotel tax already subsidizes the Music City Bowl and the CMA events), which currently is not guaranteed. Oh, and Nashville must have a convention center in place for the 2014 sporting event. And if the stars don't align, will we see some alternative funding scheme along the lines of funding the Titans' stadium by diverting Metro Water System revenues? Call me a stick-in-the-mud, but is this challenging economic moment really the time for a city of our size to be chasing more sporting events than we currently have or can afford?
UPDATE: The hotel tax funding plan for the Final Four, as reported, also seems to ignore contingencies like one last year in which Metro covered $4.8 million of the $5.6 million in Nashville Predators' operating loss out of the hotel taxes on tourists. The fact that Metro had to dip into hotel tax revenues (a move opposed by convention center proponents) suggests to me that major sports events do not amount to the goose that lays golden eggs. The projections about increases in local revenues are wishful thinking until they are booked, and there is still profound risk involved that often gets glossed over in the marketing of these events to taxpayers. It also indicates to me that major sports events, whether they be professional hockey, Titans football, or the Women's Final Four are competitors for an increasingly shrinking part of the tourist tax pie. Maybe CMA should step up themselves and make some sacrifice of their own part of the hotel taxes for the good of our community. I doubt they will.
UPDATE: A June audit of collection and distribution of occupancy tax found that, for FY 2008 through March, Metro collected $27,744,320 in hotel occupancy taxes. According to that audit, those revenues go to a new convention center, existing Nashville Convention Center, Gaylord Opryland tourist development zone, Sommet Center subsidy, and tourism and arts promotions. The revenues seem to be earmarked for more than the bowl game and CMA. That audit also found that Metro did not properly allocate hotel tax revenues and did not provide effective internal controls on the allocation process.
It's clear to me why the Sports Council wants to lay claim on the occupancy tax: actual revenues have been increasing since 2004 and running ahead of budget projections since 2005. But is increasing tourism just another economic bubble that is bound to burst eventually? And if it does, where will they turn next for money?