Saturday, December 08, 2001

Ticket surcharge proposed to lure NBA team

The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — A proposed bill by a Jefferson County state legislator would give Louisville the authority to place a 5 percent surcharge on tickets to sporting events, which could help pay for an NBA arena.

        The surcharge is part of a $259 million financing plan for an arena vital to the city's efforts to lure the NBA's Charlotte Hornets.

        State Rep. Bob Heleringer, R-Eastwood, said his legislation — co-sponsored by Rep. Tim Feeley, R-Crestwood — is meant to send a message to the Hornets and other supporters of the plan that he and other leaders are “ready, willing and able” to bring the team to town.

        Other state lawmakers from Jefferson County aren't very enthusiastic about the bill.

        A merger of the Louisville and Jefferson County governments will take effect in January 2003 and Rep. Kevin Bratcher, R-Valley Station, said he doesn't want to saddle the new merged government with any new debt.

        Sen. Elizabeth Tori, R-Radcliff, said it's unfair to ask people who want to see a ballgame to pay an extra tax, and she worries that arena revenue will not hold up to projections.

        Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, a Democrat and leader of the Jefferson County delegation, has said the surcharge bill has little chance of passing the full General Assembly.

        The Heleringer-Feeley bill would allow local governments to levy up to 5 percent surcharge on tickets to sporting events that take place within central business districts. Louisville's Central Business District would include the arena, Louisville Slugger Field and the Kentucky International Convention Center.

        Mr. Heleringer said only the surcharge collected on arena sporting events would be used to help pay for the arena project. Any surcharge collected from other facilities would be returned to those organizations, he said.

        Mayor Dave Armstrong has been seeking such a bill from the General Assembly. A surcharge would collect a projected $1.9 million in the arena's first year, increasing to $6.1 million by the end of the 30-year debt payment, according to consultants working with the city of Louisville.

        Mr. Heleringer said he's upset that some of his colleagues are labeling the surcharge as a tax and predicting it will never pass the legislature.

        “This is not a tax in any way, shape or form. I'm very sorry to see that word get tossed around irresponsibly,” Mr. Heleringer said. “It's a user fee, pure and simple. And anyone who finds it so offensive won't have to pay it by simply not attending games or buying tickets.”

        The bill will start in the House's 29-member Appropriations and Revenue Committee, of which Mr. Heleringer is a member. If the bill makes it out of committee, it would go to the full House and then to the Senate.


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- Ticket surcharge proposed to lure NBA team