Sports commission’s Schmitt says competition is stiffer, LIFT tax could be ‘game changer’ – Business First

By Marty Finley
Source: Louisville Business First

When the Louisville Sports Commission looks at the national sports business landscape as 2014 ticks away, it notices one big trend: More competition.

Karl Schmitt, executive director of the sports commission, said Louisville is competing for events with more communities than ever, as the sports industry recovered quicker from the recession than other industries did.

In many cases, Louisville is competing with much larger cities for events, he said.

“There’s more communities doing it, and they’re spending more resources,” Schmitt said in an interview. “So the competition is stiffer.”

He said communities also are investing more in infrastructure, both in hospitality facilities and sports facilities, from smaller niche locations to major arenas.

“Facilities, to us, is everything,” said Greg Fante, director of sports development for the commission, “It gives you competitive advantage.”

The quality of facilities, he said, is one of the key factors event holders consider when evaluating a city.

Also, Schmitt said, more cities are starting to develop a comprehensive partnership model in which city agencies work together and speak with one voice when bidding on events from a large group, such as the NCAA.

To stay competitive the sports commission has further embraced its relationship with the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau, Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government, the local hospitality industry and area businesses to package Louisville’s greatest assets. Schmitt said these include the city’s central location, which is within a day’s drive for much of the United States, therefore ruling out the need for many agencies to put their teams on a plane.

Another trend the commission is tracking is the willingness of other cities to start and manage their own sporting events. As an example, many cities are launching fun runs because they often are less expensive than contracting with a major brand, such as The Color Run or the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series, Schmitt said.

Schmitt believes the city has its own premiere event of the future in the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon, which was held on Oct. 25 and attracted thousands of athletes.

He estimates the half marathon has the opportunity to grow to 15,000 or 20,000 competitors eventually as the city markets the entire bourbon experience in Louisville and the region.

But Schmitt said more ammunition is needed, and he pointed to the possibilities a local option sales tax would reap. As Business First has reported, Greater Louisville Inc., the metro chamber of commerce, has made the local option sales tax a major legislative priorityin 2015, and it is expected to be a big issue before the Kentucky General Assembly this year

The state’s approval of the measure would allow communities to vote on levying a special sales tax to raise dedicated revenue for specific community projects.

Schmitt said having that type of revenue could allow the city to think big in terms of sports business development, and Fante said the revenue could be used to improve and renovate deteriorating sports facilities and build new ones.

“Sometimes it takes a game changer of that magnitude to keep you in the game,” Schmitt said.

What People Are Saying

  • “Putting the local-tax amendment on the November 2014 statewide ballot is a no-brainer. If local people want to levy local taxes on themselves, they should be able to.”

    Al Cross, Courier-Journal columnist
  • Jeff-Bringardner-headshot-only“This is a way to keep dollars in the area, to come up with a diverse slate of projects that sync up with the long-term plans of the community and get voted on by the people”

    Jeff Bringardner, President, Humana Kentucky
  • BillLamb“If Louisville could adopt a 1% Local Option Tax, it would impose a minimal burden, but would raise over 90 million dollars a year.”

    Bill Lamb, President and General Manager for WDRB and WNYO
  • Bill Samuels Bellarmine Portrait“Local option makes all the sense in the world. Offering citizens the opportunity to vote on investing in their community is how our country ought to operate.”

    Bill Samuels, Chairman, Emeritus Makers Mark
  • …a new way for communities to see the projects they want and need go from the drawing board to reality — and to do it for themselves.

    Jim Host, founder of Host Communications and former State Commerce Secretary
  • LIFT is a tried-and-true tool that allows for more voter involvement in the process.  Voters, not politicians, would help determine big picture, visionary projects that could improve quality of life.

    Dave Adkisson, President and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
  • …an idea whose time has come, and could be a crucial economic development tool which will help our local communities build a better future, and the new jobs and businesses we need.

    Hal Goode, President and CEO of the Kentucky Association of Economic Development
  • In our opinion, Kentucky voters should be allowed to vote on the local option sales tax because it could fund public facilities without increasing property taxes.

    Morehead News
  • It will allow communities to plan and pay for improvements to enhance civic and economic life without going hat in hand each budget session to Frankfort.

    Lexington Herald-Leader
  • The beauty of it is that local voters have the say-so as to its enactment, and they have a sense that they are getting what they pay for.

    Princeton Times-Leader