By Justin Idiart
The bill for the McKay Events Center is quietly getting bigger.
Utah County Commissioners authorized a subsidy of $15,000 to the event center on Utah Valley State College campus in Orem on June 13, despite the split vote of its advisory committee, said Commission Chair Jerry Grover.
“The McKay Events Center is capable of hosting various sports events that would increase tourism to Utah County, but the center must compete with other event centers to try to attract such sports events,” Grover said.
The money will be used to bring five to eight sporting events to the MEC that it otherwise wouldn’t attract, and to bring 3,000 people to the county that otherwise would not visit, according to the proposal presented to the Commission June 6.
The economic benefit to the county would be 16 times the investment, or $240,000, as tourist dollars re-circulate throughout the county, said Richard Bradford, Executive Director of Utah Valley Economic Development Association.
The proposal met the required rate of return to allow the Commission to release taxpayer funds, Grover said.
The tax revenue generated from hotels, restaurants and retail sales will cover the $15,000 grant, according the Commission proposal.
Previous to the Commission’s action, the Convention and Conference Committee had a controversial tie vote on the proposal because of how it would unequally benefit hotels and restaurants closer to the MEC, Bradford said.
The committee is a board of representatives from local hotels, restaurants and tourist sites including Thanksgiving Point, Seven Peaks and BYU. The committee is designed to give the Commission a professional, independent opinion on economic proposals.
As a regular patron may run-up an unwritten tab at a bar, tourists and taxpayers of Utah County may unknowingly continue to pump tax dollars into supporting the center.
The $15,000 grant comes on top of an annual $800,000 paid to the MEC as a result of the $7.7 million bond issue from 1991 to fund the project, Grover said.
The Commission enacted a 1 percent restaurant tax that year to cover the cost. A provision of state law that says counties may tax people at eating establishments in order to fund tourism, recreation, cultural and convention facilities.
The MEC was completed in 1996 after two years and more than 300,000 man hours of construction.
The MEC hosts athletic events, concerts, trade shows, seminars, and catered dinners on professional, college and high school levels. The arena has a seating capacity of 8,500 people.
June events at the MEC include the Shrine Circus on June 19 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and the LDS Singles Conference June 22-25, plus UVSC basketball and volleyball camps that run throughout the month.