, Port Arthur, Texas

Local News

June 23, 2014

County extends incentive to Ford Park hotel/convention center

PORT ARTHUR — A sprawling hotel complete with convention center at Ford Park is a step closer to reality now that Jefferson County Commissioners officially approved an incentive package to offer developers.

The county is offering Pate Development Co., a Wichita, Kan.-based company, a 35-year ground lease with a 35-year renewal option, The lease will cost the company $25,000 per year on the first $250,000 of net hotel income and an additional $25,000 per year for every year the hotel’s income exceeds $500,000.

In addition, the county will rebate hotel/motel taxes due to the developer for a 15-year period and ad valorem tax payments for 10 years.

As a condition of the letter of intent approved Monday, the developers will be required to use local labor and vendors and to purchase local supplies.

In April, Commissioners approved a letter of intent to offer the incentive package over the objections of local hotel owners. At the time, the owners were concerned that the new hotel/convention center would receive an unfair advantage at a time when local hotels were struggling with occupancy rates.

County Judge Jeff Branick said the feedback since then has been overwhelmingly positive.

“This is a way to help leverage Ford Park and to reduce the taxpayer burden,” Branick said.

One of the reasons Jefferson County has been passed over for conventions in the past is that people are reluctant to take a bus from their hotel to the convention center. With a hotel/convention center built together at Ford Park, they would not have to, Branick said.

During the 2013 fiscal year, the county expended $2.2 million to cover the shortfall in Ford Park operations.

This year the shortfall is projected to be nearly $2 million.

Since Ford Park opened roughly 10 years ago, the county has supplemented operations every year.

In addition to the hotel/convention center, the county is preparing a second incentive package to offer Innovative Leisure Partners, of Rosharon, to build a waterpark at the Ford Park complex.

In April, County Commissioners agreed to offer a letter of intent to Innovtive Leisure Partners. The 13-acre waterpark would be offered a 35-year ground lease for an annual payment of $15,000, with an option of a 35-year renewal.

The waterpark developer will be rebated ad valorem tax payments for 10 years and sales taxes on ticket sales for a 10-year period.

Branick said the waterpark incentive agreement will be formerly voted on by Commissioners at an upcoming meeting. The hold-up, he said, is the company is waiting for the Texas Secretary of State to approve its corporate charter.

The waterpark is expected to be larger than Pirate’s Bay, the nearest park in Baytown, but smaller than Schlitterbahn.

The waterpark is anticipated to bring hundreds of jobs for primarily youth during the summer, and the hotel about 50 to 75 jobs.


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