CARBONDALE — A proposed water park in Carbondale may get a six-figure contribution from the city’s lodging tax if a proposal by Mayor Joel Fritzler is approved by the city council.
The city has already pledged $10,000 for the outdoor aquatics center, contingent on the park district meeting its fundraising goal. Fritzler said he would like the city to provide an additional $90,000 toward the campaign.
When Fritzler brought the idea up at Tuesday’s city council meeting, Jane Adams and Don Monty suggested the donation hinge on the park district annexing properties it owns on the outskirts of town into the city.
Fritzler said he did not want to “strong arm” the park district, a description with which Monty did not agree.
The $3.4 million outdoor aquatics center is expected to open in June 2014 in the Superblock recreation complex on Carbondale’s east side.
Money from tourism
The Carbondale Convention and Tourism Bureau would administer the $100,000 contribution over a two- or three-year timeframe, Fritzler said.
“We have saved some money over the last few months while discussing the future of tourism in Carbondale, so we could make a $50,000 contribution this year and $25,000 during the next two years,” Fritzler said.
City Manager Kevin Baity said more than $60,000 of tax revenue is available this year. The figure represents less than a quarter of what the city has available for tourism promotion.
Fritzler said Councilmen Chris Wissmann, Lee Fronabarger, Corene McDaniel and Lance Jack support his proposal, which means the votes are there to move forward at some point.
Adams said she supports the water park, but she wanted more details before she could support donating a portion of lodging tax revenue normally used to promote overnight tourism stays at local hotels.
“I have to hear a lot more about the proposal,” Adams said.
The tourism bureau is not under contract with the city, but negotiations between Baity and a newly installed CCTB board of directors are expected to start soon.
Baity said a 90-day contract could be up for city council approval as early as the council’s Aug. 21 meeting. Fritzler’s proposal may not be on the same meeting agenda as the CCTB contract.
The city has $267,500 available for tourism promotion in the current fiscal year, but CCTB needs some of the money to operate and retire more than $30,000 of debt.
Adams said she did not want the tourism bureau’s hands to be tied by a forced contribution toward the water park’s capital campaign.
The park district has a $900,000 fundraising goal to get a $2.5 million federal construction grant administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Carbondale Park District Executive Director Kathy Renfro said more than $65,000 was secured at an aquatics center fundraising dinner Aug. 9.
The owner of the city’s largest lodging tax contributor, the Holiday Inn’s Trace Brown, said he had mixed feelings on lodging tax revenue being used for a water park not likely to draw many overnight visitors.
“I would rather the money be used for its intended use, to promote swimming pools at hotels, but I would rather the money go toward the aquatics center than the other crazy ideas the council thinks promote tourism,” Brown said.
Fritzler said a competition-size pool at the complex may generate overnight stays if the city secures multi-team swim meets.
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