SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A proposal that would increase Salt Lake City's hotel space — making more room for outdoor gear shows, conferences and the crowds they bring — is advancing in the state Legislature.
A Senate committee voted unanimously Friday to approve the measure, which aims to draw a developer to build a downtown Salt Lake City mega-hotel by offering tax rebates. It now goes to the full Senate for consideration.
"Yahoo for us," said Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City. "This is going to be an economic boon in many folds for us."
Backers, including Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, said the measure would increase tourism revenue and keep the state from losing regular expos and conferences. But critics contend it's a waste of state money to give incentives for development that would move forward even without government intervention.
At most, the proposal would set aside $75 million in public money to draw private developers to build a hotel with up to 1,000 rooms.
Salt Lake City now hosts the world's largest outdoor-gear trade show twice a year. It's scheduled to continue to host the event, which routinely draws in 20,000 people, through 2016.
But without more hotel space, organizers have warned, the show will need to set up elsewhere.
The city has lost out on 20 conventions because organizers said current hotel space is inadequate, Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said Friday.
The new hotel, which under the legislation is required to go up within 1,000 feet of the Salt Palace Convention Center, would need to hit certain tourism revenue benchmarks in order to qualify for tax rebates under the measure from Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville.
Private money would pay to build the hotel, which must have at least 500,000 square feet available for conventions. The state would only reimburse the builder for the cost of putting up public spaces, including parking and convention rooms.
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