PARKERSBURG - Four Innovative Grant fund requests were approved Monday for a total of $14,500 for sporting events.
The Innovative Grant fund is made up of 8.5 percent of the county hotel/motel occupancy taxes. The fund generated about $40,270 last year.
In 1985, the West Virginia Legislature passed legislation permitting cities and counties to impose a hotel occupancy tax. Then in 2008 when the county raised the hotel/motel occupancy tax from 3 percent to 6 percent, the county commissioners adopted guidelines for the new Innovative Program Grant/Special Promotions Fund, which is funded through a percentage of the county's share of the hotel/motel tax revenue. The grants are offered on a competitive basis. To qualify for the grant funding, the event/project has to draw visitors to the area to increase hotel stays.
Photo by Pamela Brust
Mark Lewis, chief executive officer and president of the Greater Parkersburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, left, along with Dave Ashley, CVB sports marketing, and CVB staffer Cindy Sheppard met with Wood County commissioners Monday to outline four requests for grants through the county hotel/motel tax.
Meeting with the commissioners Monday, Mark Lewis, chief executive officer and president of the Greater Parkersburg Convention and Visitors Bureau; Dave Ashley, CVB sports marketing director, and Cindy Sheppard with the CVB outlined the four grant requests.
The Wood County Junior State Wrestling Tournament, March 1-3, was granted $5,000. Wood County Junior Wrestling, an organization under the province of the Wood County Recreation Commission, plans to hold the 36th annual tournament at Parkersburg High School. The tournament includes participants from around the state and has averaged more than 850 wrestlers, ages 4-15. Most of those attending travel for the 2-day event and stay overnight for both nights. The event is expected to draw a total of 4,000 attendees and generate between 700-3,500 room nights, according to the grant application.
"The city of Vienna is sponsoring a new event this year, the West Virginia Christian Athletic High School Conference. It's for private parochial schools, with 6-7 teams expected, and an estimated 2,000 anticipated to attend. It is hoped this will become an annual event," Ashley said. The tournament requested $2,000, which was granted.
The tournament was obtained through a bid process by the sanctioning bodies, according to the grant application, and it attracts teams and spectators from throughout the state. It is a 2-day event. Total ticket sales exceed 800. It is scheduled for May 2-3 and expected to produce 270 overnight room stays at local hotels.
A request for $5,000 was granted to help fund the Parkersburg High School/Parkersburg South High School West Virginia Duals wrestling tournament. The anticipated attendance is 900-1,000 with 600-700 participants/spectators expected to stay overnight. The event features matches for high school, middle school and junior high teams. The events are featured at both PHS and PSHS and more than 50 teams from a multi-state region are expected to participate.
The West Virginia United States Specialty Sports Association, a youth organization that promotes baseball in the state asked for $3,000 and was funded for $2,500 for this year.
The event will include three tournaments in 2013 at three locations in Parkersburg and Williamstown. This will be the second time the tournaments have been held in West Virginia. It will bring in teams from all over the eastern U.S. for the world qualifiers and teams from all over the state for the state Middle School tournament. The State Middle School tournament will be June 6-9, qualifiers will be July 11-14 and June 13-16.
"The first three years of these tournaments have been very successful and your financial support has helped make that possible. I believe with continued success, USSSA will keep them in Parkersburg for years to come," said Randy Edge, WV USSSA state baseball director on the grant application. According to the application, the events hope to draw between 1,500-2,000 players and generate an estimated 700 room nights.
County administrator Marty Seufer said there were adequate funds available in the grant pool to fund all four requests and others previously committed for the year.
"We don't come in here with requests without first checking to make sure there is adequate funding available," Ashley said. He noted 50 percent of the funding is provided upfront once it's approved, then event coordinators are asked to fill out information, show results.
"We watch the funds. We understand the funding is limited and we don't present projects we don't feel qualify," Ashley said.
Commission President Blair Couch, who is the county liaison to the CVB board, noted when the commissioners voted to raise the hotel/motel tax, it was still in line with neighboring counties.
"The increase didn't seem to be a deterrence in the number of stays recorded," he said.
Lewis noted that hotel/motel tax collection revenues have actually increased.
"These funds you provide through the grants provide seed money for new events as well as assisting established ones and by re-investing the money you are continuing to grow the number of overnight stays and the program has been successful," Ashley said.