Round Rock worries about future of tourism

One of the concerns about this so-called 'bathroom bill' is how it could affect tourism and the economy.

With dozens of baseball, football and soccer fields, Round Rock is known as the Sports Capital of Texas. 

"Our sports center is booked up year round,” said Mayor Craig Morgan.

The city just unveiled a $27 million multipurpose complex with state of the art facilities.

All of it is aimed at bringing people to Round Rock from across the state and country.

"The facilities are great, and so people want to play in them,” said Morgan.

Morgan said it's part of their plan to keep their property taxes low- build facilities and bring in tourists.

"They come spend money in our restaurants, they eat, they stay at hotels, and then they leave,” said Morgan. "Tourism is the purist form of economic development.”

He said last year the city took in about $34 million in sales tax. According to Morgan, $17 million of that went to reduce property taxes, creating a 13 cent savings on property taxes.

"I think it’s my job as the mayor to make sure we watch these things that may have an impact to our taxpayer's pocket book," said Morgan.

And he believes there’s a possibility that tax relief could be in jeopardy.

Round Rock is scheduled to host the 2018 U.S. Quidditch National Championship next April, but the organization is questioning that decision.

Related: Grab your broomsticks: US Quidditch Cup coming to Round Rock

"U.S. Quidditch is against gender-based discrimination, including Senate Bill 6 in Texas and similar such legislation being considered in states across the country," their website states.

The proposed “bathroom bill” is now called Senate Bill 3 during the Special Session, but was referred to as Senate Bill 6 during the regular 85th Legislative Session.

U.S. Quidditch released the following statement:

“Per our earlier statement, USQ is committed to holding a US Quidditch Cup 11 event that is consistent with our mission of building community and empowering players of all genders to compete together. We are very excited to bring the Cup to Round Rock next spring, and we have been working with all of our partners in Texas to make sure that they are aware of our concerns regarding House Bill 2899 and any other related legislation. While we cannot comment on specific discussions between our organization and the City of Round Rock, we are continuing to work with the Round Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau as we await the outcome of the Texas legislature’s special session.

We fully intend to proceed with holding US Quidditch Cup 11 in Round Rock and have begun the event planning process in conjunction with our partners there. However, we also want to make sure to be deliberate in our decision-making as we await the outcome of the special session. We appreciate the understanding and the cooperation of the Round Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau and the City of Round Rock, and we look forward to continuing to work with them to hold a championship that represents the athletic pinnacle of our sport while also remaining consistent with our organization’s values.”

At this time, U.S. Quidditch told KVUE they plan to hold the Quidditch Cup in Round Rock, but want to wait for a decision from lawmakers.

"If there's tournaments that pull out and it’s a trend where more start to pull out then that's less sales tax to help reduce our property tax," said Morgan. "You will either have to make that up ultimately through property taxes or cutting core services."

According to Morgan, the U.S. Women's Lacrosse Women's Championship also wants to see what happens at the Capitol before making a commitment.

"One or two tournaments may not really have that big of an impact, but if the trend starts and its three, four, five major tournaments over a period of time, and you start seeing a decrease in the city sales tax side, then you have to make that money up somewhere,” said Morgan.

Earlier this week, business leaders said the state has already lost more than $60 million due to SB4 and talks of a potential “bathroom bill.”

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who backs the “privacy legislation,” said it shouldn't impact the Texas economy.

"It's just more talk from opponents who have nothing else to say because they can't really defend the bill,” said Patrick in a press conference earlier this year.

A spokesman from Patrick’s office issued a statement to KVUE Thursday:

“The Lt. Governor has said many times that predictions of negative economic impact simply don't hold water.  There has been no negative fallout in Houston, which overwhelmingly supported privacy. North Carolina, whose law mirrors what is being proposed in Texas, just had a record year in tourism, according to officials there. Despite a great deal of misinformation about this issue, support for privacy protections from Texans of both political parties and every demographic group remains very strong.“

A spokesman for Governor Greg Abbott’s Office also sent KVUE a statement Thursday:

“The reason businesses are coming to Texas is because of the economic climate Texas has established with low taxes, reasonable regulations, right to work laws and litigation reform. Additionally, people want to do business and raise their families in a state that has safe communities, and this law helps achieve that. The business reality is far different than the press narrative. The recently released CEO magazine list for best states to do business once again has Texas on the top. The truth is that businesses look at what is best for their bottom line, and Texas is that place.”

Whether the bill passes or not, Round Rock just wants people to continue to visit.

"The law's not even in place yet, so we don't even know what's going to happen in the special session, but we are going to watch it,” said Morgan.

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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