Yes on 2A
We urge voters in Grand Junction to vote yes on funding a new downtown event center.
We need an injection of vitality into the local economy. We’re no longer a retail hub. We need something to draw people here to spend money. We’ve urged community leaders to dare greatly and they have, giving us a bold project carefully calculated to provide the biggest bang for the local investment.
Setting the table for business, we believe, is a legitimate function of municipal government. Government shouldn’t be in business unless it fills a void that private enterprise can’t or won’t fill itself.
This measure, to be funded by a quarter-cent sales tax hike, has already delivered on the promise of setting the table. There’s at least one downtown hotel ready to be built, possibly two, if voters say yes. The East Coast Hockey League, a direct feeder of talent to the NHL, has already signed a letter of intent to bring an expansion team to Grand Junction.
Before voters even get their ballots in the mail, two major positive outcomes of a yes vote are ready to go.
Two new hotels would bring an additional 200 rooms to downtown Grand Junction. That’s about $8 million in sales a year — a good chunk of the estimated $30 million in economic activity the event center is expected to generate annually.
The sales tax hike would bump Grand Junction’s rate to 3 percent — still the lowest in the region. The new hotels alone would deliver about $240,000 a year in additional revenue to the city and contribute an estimated $100,000 to the school district.
Meanwhile, the sales tax increase would generate somewhere around $3.8 million every year. The money would cover the debt on the new 5,200-seat arena and an overhaul of the current Two Rivers Convention Center over a 30-year period.
Hunden Strategic Partners has estimated that the event center could generate $1 billion in economic activity over 30 years and add 200 jobs every year. That doesn’t include the 440 jobs for the construction period, or the 200-240 jobs to support the combined operations of the convention center and event center or the 250 indirect jobs tied to hotel construction.
That’s a lot of economic activity for what we feel is a very reasonable cost. It’s estimated that the sales tax hike would cost the average Grand Junction family $2.50 a month or $30 a year.
And what could we expect in the way of actual events? The hockey team has been unfairly singled out. It’s an important anchor tenant, paying rent during the slow winter season and providing an exciting spectator event. But it’s just one of many possibilities. The event center could host concerts for bigger acts, family shows like Disney on Ice or Cirque de Soleil, other professional sports like basketball, regional scholastic tournaments, graduations, mixed-martial arts bouts, monster trucks shows and so forth. It also expands our capacity to host major conventions.
These events will attract 80,000 new annual visitors a year, providing an enormous boost to the local economy. We’ve made this point before: Tourism isn’t a lesser form of economic development. Towns that are entirely dependent on tourists like Aspen and Vail have a stronger economic profile than Grand Junction. An event center gets us in the game. We can bolster tourism to strategically strengthen other facets of the economy.
The city remains focused on developing other sectors, like manufacturing, professional services and outdoor recreation. Taking this first step toward a diverse economy expands the tax base and puts the city in a position to consider other amenities that can enhance our quality of life and make us more attractive to companies looking to relocate.
If you have any doubts, you owe it to yourself to attend a community meeting today at The Avalon Theatre. Beginning at 4 p.m., supporters will present information and answer questions. Advocates for a community recreation center will also be present to share their efforts.
We think the event center is an important investment — and a responsible one that could change the face of the community for decades to come. This is an opportunity to re-establish ourselves as a regional hub. Vote yes on 2A.