After a lot of wrangling and discussion, the Spokane Valley Lodging Tax Advisory Committee agreed Wednesday on allocations for 2014, including $20,000 for Valleyfest. The past couple years, the advisory committee has not recommended funding for Valleyfest, but the City Council has changed the funding to include the event.
This year the committee is operating under new state laws that take away the City Council’s ability to override the panel’s recommendations. The council must either accept the committee’s decision or send it back.
The city has $547,000 to award for 2014.
Eight agencies submitted 11 requests totaling $659,100. The Spokane County Fair and Expo Center made three separate requests: one for marketing the Spokane County Interstate Fair, one for improvements to its conference facility and one for marketing other events. The tax is to be distributed to organizations that promote tourism. In previous years some members of the committee have argued that Valleyfest does not generate enough hotel stays, though state law allows the funding to be given to festivals.
Committee member Herman Meier, of the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum, said that Valleyfest has been receiving funding from the city’s lodging tax since 2004 and yet the taxes collected have increased every year. “The council’s focus was on all aspects, not just room nights,” he said.
Tax collections have increased because room prices are up, said committee member Lee Cameron of the Mirabeau Park Hotel. Cameron said he is focusing on heads in beds because his hotel is losing money. “We’re raising our rates but our occupancy is flat,” he said.
Valleyfest director Peggy Doering presented survey information collected from the 2012 event that showed that some people attending the event stayed in hotels. Cameron said he hasn’t seen any of those room nights. “We’ve had zero for 10 years in a row,” he said.
Doering replied that the 2012 attendees were asked where they stayed and several identified the Mirabeau Park Hotel. This year Shriners who traveled here to be grand marshals of the Hearts of Gold parade also stayed at Mirabeau, Doering said.
This year organizers also added a midsummer bike ride and a triathlon during Valleyfest weekend to bring in more out-of-town visitors. “We see a spot for growth in that if we can advertise it earlier,” Doering said.
All of the committee members were enthusiastic with a plan by the Evergreen Regional Volleyball Association to expand the sand volleyball courts at Browns Park from four to 12 to attract additional tournaments. “That would be a new venue, in essence,” Cameron said.
The committee, headed by City Councilman Ben Wick, voted unanimously to award $247,000 to Visit Spokane; $7,300 to Evergreen Regional Volleyball Association; $28,000 for the Fair and Expo Center for fair marketing, $4,000 for conference facility improvements and $7,800 for event marketing; $20,000 to Valleyfest; $183,800 for the Spokane Regional Sports Commission; $13,100 to the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum; and $36,000 to the HUB Sports Center.
The City Council is scheduled to vote on the committee’s recommendations Dec. 10.