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Building Innovation is a collection of stories by 90.5 fm WESA reporters about the Pittsburgh region focusing on efficient government operation, infrastructure and transportation, innovative practices, energy and environment and neighborhoods and community.

VisitPittsburgh Asks For Hotel Tax Increase To Fund Sports Tourism Commission

The city’s tourism agency, VisitPittsburgh, has proposed creating a non-profit organization tasked with attracting major sporting events to the area.

Executive Vice President Jason Fulvi said the city needs an organization dedicated solely to sports promotion.

“We had over a million overnight visits last year in Allegheny County and all of that brings money and revenue into the community," he said. "It helps to support not only our hotels, but restaurants, bars (and) attractions.”

Sports-related business is the second largest visitor market for the region lagging just behind national associations. It's a valuable, and largely untapped, revenue source, he said.

Last year, the city lost a bid to host the NCAA women’s basketball Final Four when city officials could not guarantee the required investment up front.
The region meets the NFL’s minimum requirement for hotels, according the mayor's office, but the Steelers would have to add temporary seating to Heinz Field if they hope to be serious contenders in a recent bid to bring Super Bowl LVII to Pittsburgh in 2023. 

Fulvi said the city has to support its revenue source. Visit Pittsburgh is seeking a two percentage point increase in the Allegheny County hotel tax, which is now at 7 percent. The agency will ask the state for the 2 percent increase initially, but will ask the county to enact a 1.25 percent increase as well. Fulvi estimated the two increases could bring in a combined $6 million in additional revenue in 2016 alone.

“Destinations need to help subsidize some expenses to attract larger conventions and this fund would give us the ability to assist these large conventions with some of their expenses to attract them,” he said.

The agency is drafting legislation to allow the county to vote on enacting a tax increase, he said. A third-party consultant hired by Visit Pittsburgh, the city, county and the three major sports teams recommended a staff of five for the sports commission, which would be modeled after similar groups in Philadelphia, Cleveland, Columbus and Baltimore.

"They all have these entities that are able to evaluate the business, look at the community assets that can help that business," Fulvi said. "And also execute contracts and facilitate the execution of the event when it’s here.”