Kendall Schoenrock approached the Geary County Conventions and Visitors Bureau board Tuesday afternoon with questions about the 1 percent bed tax, once dedicated to a sports complex project and now feeding into a fund for special CVB projects.
The CVB had asked the Geary County Commission to combine this revenue stream with its regular source of revenue, a 5 percent bed tax. Both taxes are levied on visitors who spend the night in a hotel in Geary County.
Schoenrock said he had been led to believe members of the CVB board were still interested in having the funds generated by this tax go to a future sports complex project. He approached the county commission earlier this week asking them not to combine the revenue streams and to consider allowing the funds to be used for a sports complex-like project. Schoenrock has shown interest in using funds from the 1 percent tax and grant money to turn the old Junction City High School site into a sports complex.
He said he had not yet made a request for funds from the 1 percent tax because the project wasn’t at that stage yet.
“All I’m looking to do is make sure that fund is preserved for an appropriate request that is sports complex related,” Schoenrock said.
CVB board member Adam Wilkey also approached the county commission saying he would like to see the 1 percent tax used for a sports complex project, but that he was in favor of combining the two taxes and placing them under the CVB’s control. He said, both to the county commission and during the CVB meeting, that he felt the 1 percent tax should no longer be collected if it’s not going to be dedicated to a sports complex project, because that project was the county’s original intent in allowing it to be collected.
“What should have happened is that should have dissolved — that 1 percent,” he said. “Because our promise that we made to the lodgers at the time was that if we couldn’t get this done, then we would disperse the funds and go back to 5 percent. That’s what should have happened and it didn’t happen.”
Wilkey said he wanted to see the 1 percent tax rolled into the CVB’s regular funding stream and then added as a line item to the CVB’s budget.
As it is, the CVB receives the 5 percent tax and the county receives the 1 percent tax which is then held in an escrow account. The fund has been accumulating money since January 2015.
Schoenrock asked for clarity, because he said he had been presented conflicting information about the CVB board’s interest in a sports complex.
He also expressed concern over how the funds from the 1 percent tax had been used since the sports complex fund was renamed to the CVB special projects fund. The sports complex project gained momentum in 2017 but fell apart in May of 2019, after which the fund was renamed.
“What I want to hear is consensus on whether or not we should be raising 1 percent for sports for overnight stays,” Schoenrock said. “And if the answer is yes, then my proposal would have to meet the merits of that request and if I don’t meet that — if it’s too small or if you guys don’t agree — then I have to come up with a different proposal, right? So I’m not advocating that my solution is the only. I’m saying that I want to preserve the sports complex fund for a sports complex. And if we can gain consensus on this, then that directs our commissioners on how to retain the funds and protect those funds moving forward. And I think sports and overnight stays is a beautiful way to do that. Play JC is established through the help of Bob (Bramlage) to get that specific thing going … Youth sports is a passion of a lot of ours' and I think it overlaps exactly with the concept of bringing outside people to Junction City. So the question for us is, should we keep 1 percent with the original goal of a sports complex? And let’s solve what that sports complex looks like after we have a consensus."
The discussion segued into return on investment.
Rick Dykstra, who took part in the initial talks surrounding the sports complex project and who is a former CVB employee, was present at the meeting and spoke about the project itself and about other complexes around the state.
He added to the talk about return on investment, saying return on exposure was also important in the tourism world and encouraged CVB board members to look at a feasibility study that was conducted on the project.
According to Dykstra, the project’s chief problems arose when the project struggled to find land to build on.
He said the complex, if built, would be one of a handful in the state.
“Currently, in Kansas, there’s five sports complexes,” Dykstra said.
If Junction City were to build such a complex, it would be the only one on I-70.
“I would advise you all maybe to revisit that and see if this is still possible,” Dykstra said.
Schoenrock, also speaking of return on investment, said he believed the best way to bring a sports complex would be to leverage the funds already in the community to bring in grant money, coming in with a budget of at least $1 million to $2 million.
“I think as a community we should always be looking for double opportunities,” he said. “When I redid Fifth Street/Playground Park with Quality Play for All, the reason Junction City was able to get a $450,000 park for a $50,000 payment is because we went after grants and we leveraged R2B4, we leveraged private money and we leveraged public money. The way that we’re going to get a sports complex in Junction City is through that same leveraging approach, which is why every dollar that gets pulled out of the 1 percent fund now is potentially a 2X or 3X negative impact when it’s time to go build a sports complex.”
Schoenrock referred to the use of the 1 percent tax revenue for anything not related to a sports complex as “highjacking” of those funds. He spoke about Redfish LLC — Acorns Resort — which he said was scheduled to receive money from the 1 percent tax.
“There was money that was owed to — that is owed to — Redfish or Acorns, that was initially dogeared to come out of this fund,” Schoenrock said. “I don’t see that as being sports complex related at all — or the original intent.”
During the course of the discussion, CVB Director Michele Stimatze expressed that she felt attacked by some of the comments that had been made about the CVB by community members.
“I’ve been accused of stealing by the Mayor of Junction City, there’s other people in this community that continually says that,” she said. “I will stand on my own and I will support that what I’ve done with the CVB has my passion.”
Stimatze said she made an effort to bring in visitors via events such as fishing tournaments.
"I have a passion to bring business into the community and I will continue to do so,” she said. “Whether it’s fishing tournaments that I know is a good return or baseball to many other things. But it needs to be done, we need to come together as a community, and quit fighting.”
“I want a strong CVB and I want you to be successful in your position,” Schoenrock said.