Commission to review Chamber’s fieldhouse gift

By Corene Brisendine

Two city commissioners are not happy with a decision by the Convention and Visitors Bureau to give the Fieldhouse Project $25,000 to perform a feasibility study for a sports complex. As a result, commissioners agreed during Tuesday’s work session to review the city’s arrangement with the Chamber of Commerce, which oversees the CVB.

Mayor John Matta and Commissioner Wynn Butler both expressed concerns about the deal. The $25,000 promised the Fieldhouse Project by the CVB represents about half of the funds project backers say they have raised to date.

Project organizers want to use the money to hire a consultant that would conduct a feasibility study of developing a complex to host competitive athletics here. If the study found the project to be viable, the consultant could have a hand in operating the facility.

Butler said he did not think giving a private group “a grant” to bring in a new business was in alignment with the mission of the bureau or the contract between the city and the Chamber.

Butler said the contract states the commission can withhold any monthly payment if it thinks the money is not being used appropriately. He said the Fieldhouse Project should not be funded, and city staff should withhold payment until the commission can take action.

The contract also states the Convention and Visitors Bureau receives a portion of the transient bed tax for “the services necessary to implement programs or projects relating to the promotion, enhancement, advancement, or retention of tourism and conventions” in Manhattan. 

Butler said that implied the funds were to be used to promote existing businesses, not perform studies to bring in new ones.

Butler said the money received by the bureau equated to about $1 million in funds for promotions. He said while the city previously altered the contract to include the subsidy for the Flint Hills Discovery Center, he thought $1 million a year to “put up billboard” advertisements was excessive, and the city should transfer other subsidies to that fund.

The revenue for the Tourism and Convention fund for 2012 was about $1.27 million through the 5 percent bed tax collected by local hoteliers for each room rented in Manhattan.

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