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Eugene track meet supporters favor hotel tax increase

EUGENE — The University of Oregon favors doubling Oregon's statewide lodging tax to help pay for the 2021 world track and field championships at Hayward Field, according to a draft proposal a UO lobbyist sent to Gov. Kate Brown in September.

Boosting the statewide room tax to 2 percent from its current 1 percent would yield at least $25 million to subsidize the Eugene event, according to the lobbyist's memo.

The entire Eugene event would cost at least $108 million, with the state picking up at least $45 million of that, according to a budget drafted in 2014 for the cost of hosting the International Association of Athletics Federations championships in 2019. TrackTown USA, the Eugene nonprofit organization that bid for the IAAF event, did not win it for 2019, but won it for 2021.

The draft budget, the lodging tax increase proposal and other documents were released by the governor's office in response to a public records request.

The total budget for the 2021 championship in Eugene has not been disclosed, although officials say it has not changed from the 2019 document.

New figures, sent by the UO to Brown in September, put the cost of upgrading Hayward Field alone for 2021 at $68 million, with $15 million proposed to come from state capital construction bonds and the rest from private donors.

The UO's plan to generate some of the required cash for the event includes permanently doubling the statewide lodging tax; the tax is charged on hotel and motel rooms. It doesn't include the added room taxes levied by some cities and counties.

Rep. Nancy Nathanson, D-Eugene, would submit a bill to the Legislature in February 2016 to increase the lodging tax, according the documents. Such tax increases require a three-fifths vote of both chambers of the Legislature. Nathanson has been mulling the proposed tax increase to aid the event since late 2014, according to the documents.

As part of the plan to fund the IAAF 2021 meet in Eugene, the UO plan is to also ask the Legislature for: $15 million to upgrade track facilities at schools statewide that could host championship teams that arrive before the event, and $3 million in general fund money to support the 2016 Indoor World Championships in Portland in March and the 2016 Olympic Trials in Eugene this summer.

TrackTown USA commissioned consulting firm ECONorthwest to do an economic benefit projections to help sell the Legislature on the event's contributions to the state.

In addition, the UO lobbyist proposes to "engage a firm to do some work with editorial boards prior to any public announcement from the Governor" about the public funding proposals, according to the September e-mail.

The 2019 draft budget proposed state tax dollars be used to pay for:

  •  $7.2 million for prizes
  •  $14 million to host the broadcast
  •  $9 million for accommodations
  •  $6 million for the festival outside the event gates
  •  $4 million to add seating to Hayward Field
  •  $5 million for security

The 2016 Oregon Legislature would have to approve the expenditure, and the governor would have to sign off, too.

TrackTown USA has requested a January meeting with Brown, Sebastian Coe, president of the IAAF; and, Vin Lananna, president of TrackTown USA.

The cost of the event is at least 10 times greater than any of the other events TrackTown USA has staged at the university, including the Olympic Trials.