Louisville room tax hike would pay for convention center expansi - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Louisville room tax hike would pay for convention center expansion

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Linda Edwards (Source: WAVE 3 News) Linda Edwards (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Andrew Campbell (Source: WAVE 3 News) Andrew Campbell (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Phil Evans (Source: WAVE 3 News) Phil Evans (Source: WAVE 3 News)
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – The convention center in downtown Louisville would receive major upgrades paid for with an extra 1 percent hotel room tax, under a plan the Metro Council is considering.

The proposal, which is co-sponsored by Democrat David Tandy and Republican Jerry Miller, has the support of both parties, spokesmen for the two caucuses said Thursday.

The tourism industry endorsed the plan, pledging that Louisville could attract 25 percent more convention business and is currently losing events to other cities because of the aging Kentucky International Convention Center.

“The competition is so fierce, and in order for us to be competitive in the marketplace, we have to expand and renovate,” said Linda Edwards, the center’s general manager.

Louisville’s room tax would increase to 9.5 percent from 8.5 percent. The increase would put Louisville’s occupancy tax burden near the middle of the pack among similar-sized cities, according to data provided by the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Developers of a 26-story Omni Hotel on the corner of Third and Liberty streets downtown told city leaders that the convention center plans were key to their decision, Tandy said.

“If we’re not able to compete for and attract the larger conventions,” Tandy said, “then the hoteliers have trouble filling those rooms.”

Preliminary plans include an entirely new third floor, larger exhibit space and more meeting rooms, and reducing the number of ground-floor lobbies, Edwards said.

“There are so many ways to arrive, and clients get really confused,” she said.

Convention visitors said Thursday that they didn’t judge cities by room tax rates, and didn’t consider the proposed increase a problem.

“That’s not something I take into consideration,” said Andrew Campbell, of Austin, Texas, who was visiting for an auctioneers’ convention. “I look at whatever room rate is posted online, and that’s all that matters.”

“I don’t look at it that closely, especially coming from San Francisco, which is such an expensive city,” said Phil Evans, who, like Campbell, were returning from a visit to the Louisville Slugger Museum.

The 1 percent tax increase would help pay for the construction of the convention center. The Kentucky General Assembly approved $56 million in state bonds for the project during the 2014 legislative session.

A Metro Council committee will consider the ordinance Thursday. It could come before the full council on July 24.

If lawmakers approve the tax increase, the construction is scheduled to finish in early 2018, Edwards said.

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