WENY News - Chemung County Looking at Room Taxes to Pay Off First Arena Debt

Chemung County Looking at Room Taxes to Pay Off First Arena Debt

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ELMIRA, N.Y. (WENY) -- It's been almost a year since the announcement was made the Elmira Jackals franchise would fold. And with that, several local businesses were stuck with unpaid bills owed by First Arena.

"We have to look at the arena and see it as a community asset, which it is, and say, 'What can we do, what's the best course of action as a community to get out of the current situation we're in?" says Kamala Keeley, President of the Chemung County Chamber of Commerce.

County officials are worried that the arena's debt would make the sale of the facility more difficult. Now they're considering a new option: using the county's room tax revenue to pay off that debt.

"We can wipe that slate clean," says Keeley. "So when we bring in a new business or owner, they don't have that debt weighing them down."

Room taxes are imposed on guests staying at local hotels throughout the county. 

"It helps to support tourism attractions like the Clemens Center, Wings of Eagles, Tanglewood Nature Center [and] Arnot Art Museum," says Keeley. "They use those funds in most cases for marketing or promoting their attraction to bring in tourists from outside the area. And those tourists then stay in the hotels and that's where that tax is generated."

The idea proposes allocating a total of $450,000 dollars towards the arena to be spread out over the next three years.

The Chamber will serve as an advisory committee for how room tax funds should be allocated. Recommendations will then be given to the County Executive, who presents those plans to the Legislature.

As of right now, officials have stressed this is just an idea.

The legislature would consider those recommendations in January.

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