There is often big competition behind closed doors as cities across the country battle to host marquee sports events, and reap the economic benefits. But should your tax dollars be used to help such competition? A new bill at the Ohio statehouse aims to do just that.
The bill would create a permanent sports event grant fund. Under the plan, when a major sporting event boosts state sales tax revenue, up to half of that money could be given to municipalities, counties or non-profit sports groups to cover expenses for hosting such events. It also lifts the cap on the amount that can be provided.
Supporters say hosting large sporting events helps the city’s reputation and bottom line.
“The Women’s Final Four brought $20 million dollars worth of direct spending to Columbus,” said Linda Logan with the Greater Columbus Sports Commission.
According to Logan, establishing a guaranteed sports event grant fund would allow the city to maintain competitiveness with cities across the country for hosting such events. Right now more than 30 states already have such funds in place.
Currently, the general assembly must appropriate money for such events and the number is capped inside the two-year state budget. Supporters of the fund say this limits an Ohio host city’s ability to bid on sports events outside that window.
“If these events don’t come to our city, there is no money to be had, we are really going to lose that economic development,” said Logan.
Logan added that this would help shore up money for Columbus and other Ohio cities to host big events years into the future. In addition to economic benefit, Logan said hosting such events like the Women’s Final Four, builds brand and name recognition for a city like Columbus.
But the idea of using tax dollars for funding sporting events is not a slam dunk for all.
“The fact that we had the Final Four here is proof positive that we don’t need this extra subsidy,” said Matt Mayer a public policy expert with Opportunity Ohio. “There are lots of events here, where is the proof that we need this to get something more we have not yet gotten?”
According to Mayer funding may be better used to improve Columbus’ reputation through improving infrastructure and quality of life.
“If we want to do bigger events, let’s make changes outside subsidies to get them,” Mayer added.
But according to Linda Logan with the Greater Columbus Sports Commission, having this fund in place now would help solidify Columbus as a great host city for things like the USA Figure Skating Championships and even the US Olympic Trials.
“All of those things would be much more attainable for us, with something like this legislation in place,” said Logan.
The bill is co-sponsored by Representatives Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) and Dave Greenspan (R-Westlake) it has some bipartisan support and is currently in committee at the Ohio Statehouse.