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Memphis pushes more hotel tax funding for FedExForum renovations

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(The Center Square) – Memphis is looking for more funding for the renovations at the FedExForum and are pushing a pair of bills in the Tennessee Legislature to get that funding.

The Legislature contributed $350 million in last year’s budget for renovations at the FedExForum and Liberty Bowl. The new bills would allow an existing sales tax capture at the arena to be used for renovations along with allowing Memphis and Shelby County to shift some of the hotel tax funding that currently goes to the Memphis Tourism to FedExForum renovations.

Negotiations are ongoing between Memphis, Shelby County and tourism officials with Metropolitan Memphis Hotel and Lodging Association President Wayne Tabor telling the Senate State and Local Government Committee the FedExForum renovations have a $60 million funding gap and are looking to get all of that from hotel taxes that currently go to Memphis Tourism.

The group had countered with a proposal to shift $30 million of that funding to the arena.

Sen. Brent Taylor, R-Memphis, asked the committee to approve Senate Bill 2711 and have it held in calendar until negotiations were complete. But committee members instead asked that the bill remain in committee and get moved to the final calendar in hopes for resolution.

Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville, said holding the bill sends a message to both sides that the issue needs to be resolved.

“If they can’t come to a decision, we are going to make it for them,” Briggs said.

Memphis Tourism currently has $27 million in reserves, with $9 million of that funding allocated to expenses. The group’s annual budget is $14 million, according to the Daily Memphian.

The group is funded through an 8.5% hotel-motel tax in Shelby County. The group receives 2.5% of the tax, roughly $12 million, while FedExForum receives the other 6% currently.

The proposal in Shelby County has asked for $5 million more of that hotel tax funding each year to go to FedExForum for the next 30 years.

Taylor said there is still work to do on the negotiations and he hopes to be able to fund the FedExForum renovations along with having dedicated funding for Memphis Tourism.

“We are obviously very concerned about this bill and where it might go,” Dan Haskell of the Tennessee Hospitality Association told the Senate committee.

Senate Bill 2471 would allow a sales tax capture of ticket, concessions, parking and other spending at FedExForum to be spent on renovations along with the current allowable expenses of securing current, expanded or new events at the arena.

The bill passed the Senate Finance Ways and Means Revenue Subcommittee on Tuesday.

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