March 20, 2018 Update
Representatives of Ohio's biggest sports teams packed a House committee Tuesday to support restructuring a grant fund intended to attract major sporting events. The legislation (HB 531) would change how the organizations that sponsor events such as professional all-star games, drafts and tournaments would receive financial help from the state. The fund originally targeted events expected to bring more than $250,000 in additional state sales tax revenue.
Backers told the House Government Accountability & Oversight Committee that the proposal would take the funding of event grants out of the biennial budget process, instead giving the organizing group half of the incremental state sales tax revenue from the event to covert certain eligible expenses.
Sports commissions and teams called the proposal a "win-win." "The program we're advocating will help keep our cities strongly competitive when pursuing these events," said David Gilbert, president and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission. Mr. Gilbert said his group and the Greater Columbus Sports Commission have attracted hundreds of events to Columbus and Cleveland since 2000, totaling more than $570 million in economic activity.
Linda Logan, executive director of the Columbus group, said the legislation includes reporting requirements. The event must be projected to provide $250,000 more in state sales tax according to a formula used by the Development Services Agency. It would provide comfort to communities looking to host events a few years out, knowing there would be funding available from the state to offset the costs of hosting the event. "It does help us actually make the decision to bid on them," he said.
Melissa Wideman, vice president of community relations for Castellini Management Company, testified in support on behalf of Bob Castellini, owner and CEO of the Cincinnati Reds. The 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game hosted by Cincinnati generated nearly $70 million in economic impact, she said. The grant program has historically been financed by the General Revenue Fund, she said. That means it sometimes does not have funding, as it didn't when Cincinnati was planning the all-star game in 2014.
"While the state graciously allocated funds late that year, creating a long-term funding mechanism as proposed in HB531 would provide the predictability that Major League Baseball demands when considering where to host the All-Star Game and the World Baseball Classic," she said.
Jeff Berding, president and general manager of FC Cincinnati, said Cincinnati has been short listed as one of the potential host cities in North America for a bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. Cincinnati is also a finalist for the 2019 Gold Cup, a tournament featuring 16 national teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean. "The World Cup is the world's largest sporting event in terms of both attendance and viewership. HB531 would be a valuable tool in Ohio's toolbox to compete against Texas, New York/New Jersey, Illinois, and Florida," he said.