Council set to vote on latest exhibition center agreements

Downtown Appleton-ONE GREAT PLACE-bug-4cThe Appleton Common Council will convene a special meeting on Wednesday, October 28 at 7 p.m., to vote on agreements related to the proposed Fox Cities Exhibition Center.

The council is expected to vote on the latest version of a proposed hotel room tax increase. The new proposal, drafted in response to feedback from the Town of Grand Chute on Wednesday, is being finalized. Under the new proposal:

- 10 participating Fox Cities communities agree to raise the hotel room tax rate to 10%

  • 3% goes to the Fox Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • 2% goes to pay bonds on the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center (estimated to be paid off in 2017)
  • 3% goes to fund bonds to pay for the construction of the Fox Cities Exhibition Center
  • 1% goes to the municipalities
  • 1% goes to Fox Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau Tourism Development Fund (a total of 3% after PAC bonds paid off in 2017 and that 2% tax rolls into the Tourism Development Fund)

- The cost to build the exhibition center is capped at $29 million.

“These agreements have been in the works for months and while numbers have changed the concepts of the plan and end goal have not,” said Mayor Tim Hanna. “This has been a collaborative process that needs to address the goals and objectives of all the stakeholders involved.”

One way that could happen is through the CVB’s tourism development fund. The initial 1% tax will become 3% when the 2% room tax already dedicated to the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center bonds are paid off in 2017 and rolled into the tourism development fund. The CVB uses the fund to support tourism initiatives throughout the Fox Cities. Since 1987 the fund has contributed nearly $8 million to projects from museum exhibits to renovations at Fox Cities Stadium.

The fund could eventually be used to support construction of a new indoors sports facility, substantial renovations to existing sports facilities and other future projects. In 2014 the CVB engaged a consultant to study the sports tourism market in the Fox Cities.

“Initial indications show that investments in our ice facilities and an indoor hard court facility could be an additional $6.3 million in direct visitor spending in the Fox Cities annually,” said CVB Executive Director Pam Seidl.

The change in the room tax agreement to direct funding to the CVB’s tourism development fund has the potential to help create significant additional visitor spending in the Fox Cities in the future. In letters of support to Mayor Hanna Wednesday, area hotel owners voiced support for the changes.

“I believe the compromises and partnership developed in the discussion between the City of Appleton and the Fox Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau have led us to a point where we can make the expo center a reality and an asset for the entire Fox Cities,” said Richard Batley, owner of the Best Western Premier Bridgewood Resort Hotel & Conference Center in Neenah and managing partner of the CopperLeaf Boutique Hotel & Spa in Appleton.

If the Appleton Common Council votes to approve the room tax agreement the other municipalities will also have to approve before November 30. That is the deadline imposed by the Outagamie County Board for Appleton to purchase the county-owned site proposed for the Fox Cities Exhibition Center.

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