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Tourism officials, hotel owners discuss room tax increase

BRIAN DUGGAN
budggan@nevadaappeal.com

A proposal is underway among Carson City tourism officials and lodging properties to increase Carson City’s tax on hotel rooms to 13 percent.

For about six months, lodging properties and members of the Carson City Convention & Visitors Bureau have been discussing, largely in informal meetings, a proposed 3 percent increase on the transient occupancy tax, which currently is 10 percent.

If approved by the city’s lodging properties and the convention and visitors bureau’s board of directors, the recommendation would be sent to the board of supervisors for consideration.

The idea, supporters say, is to use the extra 3 percent, or about $375,000 in extra revenue, to help rebuild or promote attractions in Carson City that bring visitors to the state capital and its lodging properties.

But where that money ultimately goes is still a matter of contention, and some would rather the tax not increase at all.

One proposal would give 2 percent to the city’s parks and recreation department to improve the Centennial Sports Complex, something that was brought to the convention and visitors bureau by Joel Dunn, the recreation operations manager for the city.

Among the improvements include adding handicap access to bathrooms, improving scoreboards and replacing the outfield fencing on one field. In the long term, the funding would go toward shade structures, landscaping and a new concession building.

The remaining 1 percent would be divided between promoting the V&T Railroad and promoting other Carson City amenities such as Fuji Park for equestrian events, fields for competitive sports and historical attractions, including museums.

Terrie McNutt, the director of sales at the Courtyard Marriott and the hotel and motel representative on the convention and visitors bureau board of directors, said the proposals are still being discussed and will be open to a vote by Carson City lodging properties on Sept. 21 at 2 p.m. The location of the meeting is yet to be determined. For more information, lodging properties may contact the CCCVB.

She said the competitive sports tournaments that come to Carson City make up a substantial portion of business for many properties, hence the proposal to improve some of the facilities.

Dunn said the tournaments, which include softball, soccer and swimming, attract 43,000 to 46,000 visitors who travel more than 100 miles to Carson City each year. This year, Carson City hosted 37 sporting tournaments.

“We need to come up with more ways to bring in guests to our town that stay in the hotels. We’re all in the same boat in that we need business,” McNutt said.

Still, she said, “different lodging properties are throwing back ideas to come to a consensus to what would work best for Carson City.”

So in other words, nothing is final yet.

Dwight Millard, a board member and chairman of the V&T Railroad reconstruction commission, said he wants to see 1.5 percent of the proposed increase go toward the V&T Railroad, which he argues has the potential to bring more tourists to Carson City if promoted.

“The train is bigger than most people can even figure,” Millard said. “I’m a visionary and an optimist and this train is bigger than I see.”

He said the train has experienced high demand this summer, but said the commission is still collecting data on how the railroad impacts the city’s lodging properties.

“I don’t know how many of those tournaments are going to leave us because we don’t have a handicap bathroom,” Millard said. “The improvements need to be made. The question is should it be tourism funding or out of the general fund?”

Mayor Bob Crowell said he’s heard some bits and pieces of information about the proposal.

“I’m wary about doing anything that’s going to dampen our market here, but… I’ve heard from various properties in town that they’re concerned about the state of our athletic facilities and they’d like to see some money go to refurbishing those facilities to attract some out-of-town folks to come play.”