Press release here:

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (July 28, 2010) — The Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority (BCTDA) announced today that it is awarding more than $2.25 million to three community projects through its Tourism Product Development Fund (TPDF).  Funding will assist with construction of projects that are expected to further enhance the community while also driving more overnight hotel stays and pumping additional dollars into the local economy.  

The BCTDA voted to award the grants during its most recent meeting, basing its votes on recommendations from the TPDF committee. Recipients of the 2010 funding cycle include:

-The City of Asheville will receive a $2 million grant to renovate and upgrade the Asheville Civic Center, including lower level seating replacement, upper level seating repair and floor surface repair. More than 200,000 patrons pass through the Civic Center each year and, depending on the event, up to 50 percent of those are out-of-market guests.

-The Asheville Area Wayfinding Program will receive $150,000 to implement Phase II of the county-wide signage program which will include a small amount of new vehicular and district identification signs, supporting existing routing and filling in any gaps in navigation. Phase II signage will only begin only after the resolution and completion of Phase I. 

-The Smoky Mountain Center will receive $100,000 to construct a new outdoor sports and adventure center featuring climbing walls, canoe and bike rentals, and other outdoor recreation opportunities. The new outdoor center is proposed for a location adjacent to Carrier Park with access to the French Broad River.

In 2000, the tourism industry, and hoteliers, in particular, devised the idea to slightly increase the room tax in order to provide a funding source that could spur new projects that would benefit residents in the Asheville area, while generating additional room nights.  With passage of the legislation in 2001, the room tax increased from three to four percent with the additional cent dedicated to capital projects. Visitors also pay state sales tax on their lodging. 

 “In the case of the Asheville Civic Center, we’re looking at a potential renaissance in local entertainment offerings,” said BCTDA Executive Director Kelly Miller. “The recent commitment to host the Southern Conference basketball tournament presents a golden opportunity that BCTDA is thrilled to support. Beyond national exposure and an anticipated boost in tournament-related business, improvements to this venue will broaden the future of entertainment prospects considering our area and offer them an enhanced facility…and that’s also exciting for us local patrons, as well.”

In June, Southern Conference league officials named Asheville as the host city for the men’s and women’s basketball tournament for at least three years beginning in 2012. Men’s games will be played at the Asheville Civic Center, as well as the semi-final and championship games. The conference is estimated to generate at least 4,700 room nights. The Southern Conference men’s tournament was last in Asheville from 1984 to 1995.

Tourism product funding is generated through room tax collected from overnight visitors that stay in Buncombe County hotels, bed & breakfast inns and cabins. One fourth of the four percent room tax is dedicated to bricks and mortar projects that will increase room nights and ultimately have an economic impact on the region. 

More than 2.9 million overnight leisure visitors travel to the Asheville area each year generating more than $1.8 billion in economic impact to the region.  Since the TPDF legislation was passed in 2001, 14 projects have received more than $14 million in funding.

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