Friday, October 7 2022

Lane County officials can raise tourism-related taxes to help fund a multi-use facility at the Lane Events Center.

On Tuesday, the County Board of Commissioners unanimously ordered county staff to prepare at least one order increasing both hotel taxes (known as transient room taxes) and car rental taxes by 2 points. percentage to help improve tourism-related facilities at county-owned events. center.

That would generate an additional $4.25 million a year, according to a staff memo.

The tax increase could help fill a funding gap by funding bonds to build a multi-use facility that would serve as the new home for the Eugene Emeralds. The minor league team must find a new home by 2025 at the latest due to new Major League Baseball standards.

In addition to serving as the new home for the Emeralds, the facility would host community events, serve as an outdoor concert venue, and host multi-level baseball tournaments.

As the county and team discussed the feasibility of building a “new civic stadium” at the center of events, staff members looked for ways to fund the multimillion-dollar project using revenue. related to tourism rather than local tax dollars, said County Administrator Steve Mokrohisky. said.

The county is also working to identify as much upfront money as possible, he said.

And while an estimate presented Tuesday ranges from $60 million to $80 million for construction, staff plan to work with a design-build firm to limit the budget to available funding, he said.

“Our intent is to say, ‘Here’s the budget we have,’ and work with this design-build company to design the facility around that budget,” Mokrohisky said.

Tuesday’s vote was critical but was still not the last “go or no go” moment for the board on the project, he added.

Commissioners said they were in favor of the next step, with some stressing they wanted to ensure the new facility could serve as an emergency shelter in the event of a natural disaster.

Months of discussions on a potential installation

County staff and consultants have been working with the Emeralds since late 2021 to see if it is possible to build the stadium into the center of events.

MLB is asking the Emeralds to find a new home by 2025, but the University of Oregon would prefer the team to work things out by 2024, general manager Allan Benavides told county officials earlier this year. The Emeralds currently play home games at OU’s PK Park.

Officials recently gave staff the go-ahead to condense the contracting process for a possible multi-purpose facility, unanimously approving an exemption from the normal public contracting process to use a design-build method instead. for the proposed installation.

Read more:Officials approve condensed procurement process for Emeralds proposal at Lane Events Center

Staff said the process quickly resolves potential design confusion and allows the county to consider expertise and cost rather than simply opting for the lowest cost as would normally occur. during the procurement process.

Hillsboro uses a similar process to expand and revamp the home stadium of the Hillsboro Hops, another minor league team in the same league as the Emeralds.

Both teams must meet new MLB facility standards after moving to the league’s High-A class.

While Hillsboro is being remodeled, the Emeralds are finding a new stadium. And because of the new normal and a longer season, the team, which has called Eugene home for decades, can no longer play at UO’s ballpark.

This means the project costs here are estimated to be higher than the $40 million project in Hillsboro.

The project could cost between 60 and 80 million dollars

According to initial analyses, the project could cost between 60 and 80 million dollars.

A consultant has estimated that a new stadium would cost $78.5 million for fixed and indirect construction costs, with construction starting next year.

The county has identified $17.5 million in seed funding — $10 million from the Emeralds and $7.5 million from the Oregon Legislature — and is working to find more and reallocate $600,000 to the existing financing of the transitional chamber tax.

That leaves a funding shortfall of $3.1 million a year if it costs $60 million to build and a shortfall of $4.8 million a year if it costs $80 million, the staff memo says.

Those numbers assume the county will get a 20-year bond with 6% interest to provide financing, said Christine Moody, the county’s chief financial officer.

The County Transient Lodging Tax is currently 8%. Based on an analysis by Travel Lane County, that’s less than comparable markets, Moody’s said.

Raising the tax to 10% would generate an additional $3.6 million per year, based on revenue for the fiscal year that ended in June.

The county car rental tax is currently 10%. Increasing it to 12% would generate $650,000 more per year, based on tax revenues for the last fiscal year.

Some key “bells and whistles” for officials

Under the council’s order, revenue from the tax increase could go to more than just the multi-purpose facility. They could also help with a general overhaul of the Lane Events Center and other tourism-related facilities.

Officials agreed that the event center as a whole needed investment.

Commissioner Pat Farr, who chairs the board, recalled doing home shows for Jerry decades ago in animal buildings and said they were already old by then .

The center of events has also long been on Commissioner Jay Bozievich’s mind as something the county has underinvested in, he said.

Bozievich said he would like to see the potential multi-purpose facility built to emergency standards so it can add to the event center‘s ability to serve as a community gathering space.

“But for the Lane Events Center, where would the livestock and pets have gone during the holiday farm fire?” he said. “Where would we have held these mass vaccination clinics?

Bozievich added that when it comes to “bells and whistles,” he’s particularly interested in soundproofing and things that might address light pollution and other concerns raised by neighbors.

Read more:(For subscribers) Efforts to build ballpark for Emeralds at Lane Events Center spark joy and concern

Commissioner Laurie Trieger added that she wanted to ensure that the facility would be built in such a way that it was immediately ready for occupancy.

She encouraged people who review the project to be substantive and specific about their likes and dislikes so officials can find ways to address concerns.

And after?

Staff will bring back an order for a first reading, potentially as early as September 13.

The commissioners would then hold a second reading and a public hearing before voting on the ordinance. It is possible to hold further readings before a vote if the officials feel it is necessary to make changes.

If the county is able to identify enough funding to make the project viable, staff could present options for awarding a design-build contract as early as October.

The project will not reach its final “go or no go” moment until officials approve a funding plan, Mokrohisky said.

Learn more about the project

There is more information about the project, including answers to frequently asked questions and an email and phone number to contact staff, at lanecounty.org/LEC_update.

Contact city government watchdog Megan Banta at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @MeganBanta_1.

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