On Tuesday, Columbia voters will have the opportunity to renew the sales tax on our community’s parks.
The pandemic has created economic hardship for our local hotels, retail stores and restaurants. As we come together as a community to recover, sport tourism can be part of the solution for economic resilience. The park sales tax plays a key role in financing the development and major maintenance of recreational facilities that facilitate sport tourism.
How does the sport tourism generated by Columbia Parks and Recreation contribute to the local economy? The Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates that the direct economic impact of sports tournaments hosted at Columbia Parks and Recreation facilities in 2021 will be approximately $ 10 million.
The 2021 Show-Me State Games alone generated approximately 6,500 hotel stays in the Columbia area. While the MU provided most of the indoor facilities, the facilities at Columbia Parks and Recreation hosted 15 different sports. The financing of the sales tax on one-eighth renewable parks is essential for the development and major 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 park’s previous sales tax ballot. Harmony Bends Disc Golf Course was named the 2017 Disc Golf Course of the Year by Disc Golf Course Review. This led to Columbia being selected to host the prestigious PDGA Tim Selinske US Masters Disc Golf Championship in 2021. More than 400 professional and amateur disc golfers from 35 states and three other countries traveled to Colombia to participate in this tournament of four. days.
In 2019, Columbia built a world-class dedicated cross-country course at Gans Creek Recreation Area. The development of the Gans Creek Cross Country Course was one of the 2015 park sales tax funded projects. This led to Columbia winning the Missouri State High School Athletic Association State Cross Country Championships. (MSHSAA) for 2019-2023, after 42 years of hosting the event in Jefferson City. This event brings together around 2,500 athletes and spectators in Colombia. This course also hosted the 2021 SEC Cross Country Championships and is expected to host the 2022 NCAA Midwest Regional Cross Country Championships, 2025 NCAA Championships, NAIA National Cross Country Championships in 2024, 2027 and 2030, and many other tournaments. This is all thanks to the funding provided by the park’s sales tax.
Columbia City Council has approved a list of projects that will be funded by the park’s one-eighth-of-a-cent sales tax if voters approve its expansion in 2021. This list of projects includes the expansion of the Columbia Sports Fieldhouse and the pickleball and tennis. court complex at Albert-Oakland Park. The Phase I development of the new Northeast Regional Park, known as Boone Country Fairgrounds, is also on the list. Artificial turf fields and other sports facilities are included in the preliminary master plan for the Northeast Regional Park.
Major maintenance projects for our sports facilities are also on the list of projects approved by the Council. These sports complex development and maintenance projects are necessary to promote sports tourism in Colombia and help stimulate the local economy.
When our community thrives economically, all of our citizens benefit. A healthy local economy contributes to the revenues that pay for our road repairs, public safety and other essential services. It makes sense to reinvest in our community through the renewal of the park sales tax to reap the economic benefits of sports tourism. Join me on November 2 and vote “Yes” on proposition 1.
Brian Treece is the mayor of Columbia.