Study will focus on economic impacts of baseball stadium

Report should be ready for county work session

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Looking for details on how a minor league baseball team could benefit the county, the Columbia River Economic Development Council has commissioned a study of the economic impacts of building a stadium at Clark College.

Paul Dennis of Cascade Planning Group in Camas and Eric Hovee of E.D. Hovee & Co. in Vancouver were hired to do the study, Eric Fuller, chairman of the CREDC, said Wednesday.

Fuller said the report should be finished by next week, when the Clark County commissioners have their first work session on the Letter of Intent submitted by the owners of the Yakima Bears.

“This is an important step to more completely understand the economic impact of this project,” Fuller said in a statement released Wednesday. “Paul and Eric have solid track records of sizing up projects in this region for their direct and indirect benefits. Having a fresh economic impact study will help everyone make good decisions while keeping the project on its proposed timeline.”

Kim Bennett, president of Vancouver USA Regional Tourism, has estimated the stadium would bring in $189,000 a year in tourism.

The commissioners’ work session will be 9 a.m. Wednesday in the sixth-floor hearing room at the Public Service Center, 1300 Franklin St.

In May, owners of the short-season Class A team announced they wanted to move the team to Vancouver.

Since the Portland Beavers left for Tucson, Ariz., in 2010, the Portland area opened up as the largest metro market in the country without a professional baseball team.

Owners said they would arrange private financing for a $23 million stadium that could be used by Clark College and the community.

The group that owns the team, Short Season LLC, would own and operate the 3,500-seat stadium, which would be built east of Interstate 5, where the college currently has a baseball field.

In exchange, county commissioners would approve a 5 percent admissions tax, with revenues going into a facility fund that would be used to pay off construction bonds.

The admissions tax could be applied to tickets sold at the Sleep Country Amphitheater, Clark County Fair, Washougal Motocross and other events.

A county budget analyst has predicted an admissions tax could bring in $965,000 a year. The single biggest source of revenue would be from movie tickets.

No city in Clark County has an admissions tax; Vancouver is the largest city in the state without one.

While the tax isn’t uncommon, the way the county proposes to use the tax isn’t similar to other models.

Other counties that have an admissions tax, for example, don’t make other venues collect the tax (which forces the venues to either raise ticket prices or take the 5 percent cut on profits) to support an unrelated enterprise.

Rather, they let the venues either keep the revenue, or the money goes into the county’s general fund so it can be used to pay for basic municipal services.

If after next week’s work session, the commissioners agree to keep the baseball proposal alive, a second work session would likely be scheduled to discuss the admissions tax.

Before commissioners could enact the tax, they must have a public hearing.

While Commissioners Steve Stuart and Marc Boldt have been supportive of the baseball proposal, Commissioner Tom Mielke has said he will not support the tax without a public vote.

The Vancouver City Council will also have to support the tax, since investors will want assurance that revenues will be stable.

If the city decided to enact its own admissions tax, the revenues collected in the city (an estimated $500,000 of the $965,000) would be excluded from what the county could use to pay off stadium bonds.

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.