Updated: DE Turf Organizers Push for Kent County Lodging Tax - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Updated: DE Turf Organizers Push for Kent County Lodging Tax

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WOODSIDE, Del.- Organizers behind DE Turf on Thursday night made their pitch to taxpayers on why Kent County should impose a lodging tax benefiting the facility, despite concerns raised by some community members and stakeholders about the necessity or merit of the proposal.

Leaders with the Kent County Regional Sports Complex, a nonprofit that owns the DE Turf facility, told attendees at a meeting that they intend to use what could be roughly $950,000 in revenue from a possible countywide lodging tax enabled by the General Assembly this year to attract larger tournaments and events to the facility.

“As of right now, I’m convinced this is the best approach because it does not impact the Kent County taxpayer,” said Bill Strickland, chairman of the nonprofit’s board.

Strickland and officials with DE Turf have said the money would primarily be used to help fund bids for large national tournaments to use DE Turf for their competitions --- and improve the facility and its parking to host those events. The 

In turn, Strickland said local businesses and hotels would benefit from millions of dollars in commerce from an increasing number of out-of-state visitors.

"We don't need those dollars to pay our operating expenses. What we need those dollars to is to grow our tournament size and scope," he said.

But some participants in Thursday’s meeting questioned whether that business model is sustainable or  wise use of taxpayer money.

Tom Pledgie, of Dover, said DE Turf could become engaged in using tax revenue in an escalating competition with other municipalities and counties that can afford better incentives than the nonprofit.

“Why do you even want to get into that environment?” he asked.

Strickland said during the meeting that the current proposal was a response to the current competitive situation.

"I can only look at the playing field and respond accordingly," he said.

Bill Silva with the Delaware Hotel & Lodging Association said the idea that Kent County’s lodging tax revenue would go to a private organization, rather than to a public body was unprecedented.

Additionally, he questioned whether any bids were nonrefundable if DE Turf is not selected as the site for an event.

“I think the path you’re taking right now is dangerous,” he said.

Some business owners and managers suggested at the meeting if DE Turf is able to secure larger tournaments and crowds that could only add to what is already a positive trend for businesses since the facility opened.

“It’s really been anything past our water streams, even to the point where we cannot house the teams that come in here on a weekly and monthly basis,” said Chris Shore, a manager at the Grotto Pizza in Milford.

DE Turf officials have claimed a lodging tax of 3 percent would reach nearly $1 million if it was approved, though the City of Dover has projected a similar tax at the same rate on hotels and motels within its boundaries could bring in as much as $1.6 million.

Levy Court Commissioners have suggested if the proposed tax is approved, it may not be the full three percent sought by DE Turf.

Commissioner Allan Angel (D-Dover) said he is generally supportive of giving DE Turf a "pot of money" to help it stay competitive and believes the tax will be primarily paid by people from out of state.

"They're filling the rooms," he said. "I've seen the parking lots over packed, over thirty different states and two countries coming here."

Senator Denies Potential Conflict in Enabling Legislation

Sen. Trey Paradee (D-Dover) was the primary backer of the bill in the Senate. The legislation passed on the final day of the legislative session.

Paradee, whose brother serves on the board of the group that runs DE Turf, denied he was aware that his brother served in that capacity and that his brother's position influenced his support for the legislation, which was primarily requested by DE Turf officials and not the Levy Court.

"It's an absolutely preposterous idea. I had no idea he was on their board," he said. "I was surprised to find out."

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