TULSA, Okla. — A debate between hoteliers and the city of Tulsa is beginning to affect Tulsa's biggest events, and the businesses that reap the benefits of the tourism they bring in.
When Tulsa makes a bid for an event like the Bassmaster Classic, NCAA Tournament, or Ironman triathlon, the money for the bid comes from the Tulsa Tourism Improvement District (TID)
Those events generate millions in revenue for the city. Elgin Park General Manager J.L. Lewis says the NCAA Tournament in March brought in their most-ever business in a four-day period.
"That's what these big events do for our city," Lewis said. "You have to look toward next year and say, 'okay that event's not in town,' and adjust accordingly."
The reason for the problem is an issue with TID. Some hotel owners say the 3% they have to pay is unfair, because a select few have to pay it, and those who do pay don't have representation to decide where the money goes.
"We're not against the concept," attorney Lee Levinson said. "We should have a right to direct where the money goes."
Levinson and the group of hotel owners against the current TID created their own agreement, which would require "all hotels 50 rooms and up within the city limis of Tulsa" to pay 2% of the revenue made from a guest's stay. Levinson says it would be easier on the hotels, and make even more money for the city.
They also want the Board of Directors of the TID to be reshaped to allow for more representation for those hotels paying.
Ray Hoyt is the president of VisitTulsa Regional Tourism. He says owners already have representation on the board that makes the decisions. The ongoing conflict, which has stopped the payments and frozen the money TID had already collected, is costing Tulsans, Hoyt says.
"All that tax revenue, some billion dollars spent in the community, helps support our way of life," Hoyt said.
For now, private businesses are bankrolling the effort to keep the Ironman triathlon in Tulsa. A hearing to settle the dispute is in the works, and both sides want to come to a resolution as soon as possible.
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