On Tuesday, Columbia voters will have the opportunity to renew our community’s successful Parks Sales Tax.
The pandemic has created economic hardship for our local hotels, retail stores, and restaurants. As we all pull together as a community to relax, sports tourism can be part of the solution to economic resilience. Parking sales tax plays a key role in funding the development and extensive maintenance of recreational facilities that promote sports tourism.
How much does sports tourism generated by Columbia Parks and Recreation contribute to the local economy? The Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates the direct economic impact of sports tournaments hosted at Columbia Parks and Recreation facilities in 2021 to be approximately $ 10 million.
The 2021 Show-Me State Games alone generated an estimated 6,500 hotel stays in the Columbia area. While MU provided most of the indoor facilities, Columbia Parks and Recreation hosted 15 different sports. Funding from one eighth of the renewable parking sales tax is critical to the development and comprehensive maintenance of these sports complexes.
The development of the Harmony Bends Disc Golf Course at Strawn Park was one of the projects funded by the prior Park Sales Tax vote. The Harmony Bends Disc Golf Course was named Disc Golf Course of the Year 2017 by Disc Golf Course Review. This resulted in Columbia being selected to host the prestigious PDGA Tim Selinske US Masters Disc Golf Championship in 2021. Over 400 professional and amateur disc golfers from 35 states and three other countries traveled to Colombia to take part in this four-day tournament.
In 2019, Columbia built a world-class cross-country ski trail in the Gans Creek Recreation Area. The development of the Gans Creek Cross Country Course was one of the projects funded by the Park Sales Tax 2015. This resulted in Columbia winning the Missouri State High School Athletic Association (MSHSAA) five-year application for the 2019-2023 Cross Country State Championships after the event was held in Jefferson City for 42 years. This event brings an estimated 2,500 athletes plus spectators to Colombia. This course also hosted the 2021 SEC Cross Country Championships and is designed to host the 2022 NCAA Midwest Cross Country Regionals, the 2025 NCAA Championships, the NAIA Cross Country National Championships in 2024, 2027, and 2030, and numerous other tournaments. All thanks to the Park Sales Tax funding.
Columbia City Council has approved a list of projects to be funded by 1/8 cent parking sales tax if voters approve the extension in 2021. Included in that list of projects are the Columbia Sports Fieldhouse expansion as well as the pickleball and tennis court complex in Albert-Oakland Park. Phase I development of the new northeast regional park known as Boone Country Fairgrounds is also on the list. Artificial turf pitches and other sports facilities are included in the preliminary master plan for the Northeast Regional Park.
Major maintenance projects at our sports facilities are also on the list of projects approved by the Council. These development and maintenance projects for sports complexes are needed to promote sports tourism in Colombia and to boost the local economy.
When our community thrives economically, all of our citizens benefit. A healthy local economy contributes to the revenues that go towards our road repairs, public safety, and other vital services. It makes sense to invest in our community by renewing the park sales tax in order to take advantage of the economic benefits of sports tourism. Come with me on November 2nd and vote “yes” on proposal 1.
Brian Treece is the Mayor of Columbia.
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