PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Local News

April 11, 2014

County to consider Ford Park hotel/waterpark incentives

BEAUMONT — Jefferson County Commissioners may be ready to move on a proposed convention center and waterpark at Ford Park in an effort to reduce operational costs at the entertainment complex, but not all are on board.

At their Monday meeting, scheduled for 1:30 p.m. fourth floor of the Jefferson County Courthouse, Commissioners will consider providing economic incentives to the developer in the form of abatements on sales tax and hotel occupancy taxes.

Local hotel owners are concerned the incentives would provide an unfair advantage to the proposed Ford Park hotel, Bill Bianchi, president of the Golden Triangle Hotel and Lodging Association, said.

Bianchi, who is also general manager of the MCM Elegante hotel in Beaumont, said all hotels in the area pay 8 percent of a patron’s nightly room rate for hotel occupancy taxes. Six percent of that amount goes to the city, and two percent to the county.

Another 7 percent is paid in sales taxes, which are divvied up between local cities and the county.

“Our biggest problem is the county is proposing the developer would not have to pay hotel occupancy taxes. We all pay them, and a portion of those taxes go to support Ford Park,” Bianchi said.

If the proposed 200-unit hotel were built on the grounds of Ford Park, the hotel would likely not have to pay sales tax or hotel occupancy taxes for a yet-to-be-determiend number of years.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Michael “Shane” Sinegal said he is in favor of the waterpark, and does not have big objections to the hotel, but does have some concerns.

Mainly, that the area —especially Port Arthur — is already saturated with hotels.

“South County is hotel alley. Unless it trickles down here, it is going to kill us here,” Sinegal said.

Bianchi agreed.

“Our group does not feel like there is a need for any additional hotels,” he said.

In the last six years, there has been a 30 percent increase in the number of hotels built in Jefferson County. Most are in the Port Arthur area where industrial expansions prompted the need.

Now that the largest expansion at Motiva is complete, the need is not so great.

Area hotels are averaging a 50 to 60 percent occupancy rate,” Bianchi said.

The result: a number of hotels in Beaumont and Port Arthur are up for sale, while others have lost their franchises.

“We are certainly oversupplied,” Bianchi said.

Still, something needs to be done to offset operational costs at Ford Park, and a new hotel and added amusement attraction may just be the ticket, Sinegal said.

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

Another $2 million is budgeted in the current year budget.

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

“We started at $1.5 million and have gone up,” Patrick Swain, County auditor, said. “It would be nice if we could reduce the amount we have to subsidize.”

Sinegal said he is comfortable with offering the developers a 25 percent discount on sales and hotel occupancy taxes for a period of 10 years, if the measure would offset Ford Park operational expenses.

The city of Beaumont will have to

Sinegal said he had hoped to see the matter discussed in a workshop session rather than a regular meeting.

A representative from the Hotel Association will attend Monday’s meeting, Bianchi said.

The developer for the proposed hotel is Pate Development Co., a Wichita, Kansas-based company. Innovative Leisure Partners of Rosharon, near Houston, is the developer for the proposed waterpark.

E-mail: skoonce@panews.com

Twitter: skooncePANews

 

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