NAMPA — A group of Nampa volunteers are hoping to put an auditorium district up for a vote next May.
Nampa officials have been considering an auditorium district for at least a year. Soon after taking office, Nampa Mayor Debbie Kling told the Idaho Press she was interested in creating an auditorium district. The city won’t actually have much control in the district’s formation. She said Nampa residents will have the most control.
Kenny Wroten, chairman of the Nampa Tourism Development Council, a nonprofit group that is separate from the city, spoke about the steps needed to get an auditorium district on the ballot, and explained the benefits of such a district, at an open house Wednesday at Holiday Inn Express in Nampa.
An auditorium district would fund capital improvement projects for the Ford Idaho Center and the Nampa Civic Center, said Beth Ineck, the city’s economic development director. The district would collect funding through a tax of up to 5% for visitors who stay at any of Nampa’s hotels or other lodging establishments.
For the measure to qualify for the May ballot, it needs at least 3,000 signatures from voters in the proposed district’s boundaries by mid-February, Wroten said. The measure would require a simple majority vote to pass.
The tourism council is hoping to hire a private company to collect the signatures, which would cost roughly $10,000, he said. The group currently has about $2,700 in seed money.
If passed, the auditorium district would cover most of Nampa’s city limits, spanning up to Highway 20/26 and down to Amity Avenue. Ineck said the district’s boundaries were chosen to include all of Nampa’s hotels, and with enough residential areas for a pool of residents to sit on the district board. That board will be the body that decides what to do with the tax revenue.
Wroten said if Nampa settles on a 5% visitors tax, it would generate about $1 million every year. This could pay for a range of infrastructure improvements at Nampa’s existing venues, such as the Ford Idaho Center, the Civic Center and the Train Depot, as well as cover other costs, such as the salary for a new position that promotes Nampa as an event space for outside companies. This would be especially beneficial to local hotels, according to Greg Gamble, director of sales for the Holiday Inn.
In 2011, Nampa voters rejected the creation of an auditorium district, with 1,464 no votes to 1,072 yes votes. Kling believes the effort failed because the voters weren’t adequately educated about how auditorium districts work, and they may have thought that all residents would be taxed instead of just city visitors.
Nampa City Councilman Darl Bruner, who was at the open house, said in order to get an auditorium district approved, it is crucial to educate voters that the district will serve as a tax relief for residents, instead of an added tax burden. Without a district, the expenses to improve Nampa venues could fall on taxpayers.
Gamble said business for Nampa hotels is tough, especially in the winter. He attributed this to the lack of event spaces or restaurants that draw customers. About 62% of Idaho visitors travel through the state in a single day, he said.
“No one is actually staying here,” Gamble said.
Although some people might assume that hotel officials are not supportive of an auditorium district because it adds cost for their customers, Gamble said he and many other hotel executives are supportive of it. Better event spaces will draw more people to Nampa, most of whom will stay at local hotels.