MARSHALL - The Southwest Amateur Sports Commission is looking to the Southwest Marketing Advisory Center as a means to get its finger on the pulse of the community and the region when it comes to the proposed $12.9 million regional amateur sports facility and MERIT Center expansion.
The advisory center has put together an online survey to both gauge area residents' knowledge, thoughts and opinions on the sports facility and MERIT Center and educate the public as well as the November vote on a local sales tax option draws near.
"The survey is designed to do both," said Michael Rich, executive director of the Southwest Marketing Advisory Center. "What are your views on this? Were you aware of this, aware of that? We did it several years ago on the school bonding issue that had lost by 70 percent. We went out and studied the community and found out where the hot buttons were and basically educated around those areas that weren't fully understood. It passed by 70 percent the next time it ran. If you understand how people think you can do a better job of getting your point across."
Of course, the hot button issue this time around has nothing to do with property taxes as it did with the school, rather it's a sales tax option. A .5 percent local sales tax and a 1.5 percent hospitality (food, beverage, lodging) tax will both go to a public vote in November and if passed would be put toward both projects.
The local sales tax does not apply to sales of motor vehicles; however, a $20 excise tax of vehicles would apply to the sales of vehicles made by dealers in Marshall if the vote passes. Food and beverage would apply to gross receipts of food and beverages sold on the premises by restaurants and places of refreshment in the city of Marshall. Groceries brought for cooking are not included in the tax.
Rich said the survey, which goes live Monday, should clear up lingering confusion surrounding the upcoming vote.
"The question has come up, 'If I vote for both of them does that mean the sales tax doubles? No, it doesn't," he said. "The sales tax will still be one-half percent and one-and-a-half percent on restaurants and lodging. The taxes do not double if you vote for both. And the other thing is that both of those taxes expire once those facilities are paid for."
The taxes would help pay for the construction and operating expenses of the sports center, including two sheets of ice and outdoor baseball and soccer fields, as well as a driving track at the MERIT Center that could be used for a variety of training purposes.
The SMASC is touting the proposed sports center as a future home for athletic events, trade shows, expos and other events and said the expansion of the MERIT Center will bring in 4,800 trainees annually.
Questions on the survey range from the general - how familiar people are with the sports complex proposal and the MERIT Center - to those designed to garner the public's feelings toward both projects and if people understand the potential benefits that would occur if the projects move forward.
"Most people are against sales tax increases in general terms," Rich said, "but if they understand the growth and development in Marshall as a result of additional people coming into the city for sporting events and training on the MERIT side of it, it will give them an understanding that they will have a better quality of life."