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Task force calls for entertainment tax to beautify Tulsa

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TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- Paying a little extra in Tulsa to rent a movie or stay in a hotel could help pay for an estimated $280 million tourism package that includes a new coliseum, downtown parking and a trolley system, a task force proposed Tuesday.

Following the success of Oklahoma City's new canal and ballpark, the Tulsa Convention and Tourism Task Force released plans for its own tourist attractions to be built over two phases.

"In Tulsa, people never like to think Oklahoma City is doing something better than we are. It's friendly competition," said task force chairman John Benjamin.

The most expensive proposal is a $110 million indoor coliseum to be built just north of the federal courthouse downtown. About $10
million in private funds could be raised with the public picking up $100 million. The 20,000-seat arena would be used for concerts,
sporting events and conventions.

"The multipurpose coliseum would increase retail -- restaurants and entertainment to the area," Benjamin said Tuesday.

Another proposed project is to create 1,200 downtown parking spaces and an $80 million upgrading of the Maxwell Convention Center.

The proposals are among 10 projects that will be recommended to the City Council and Mayor Susan Savage. If approved, the projects
could be on the Nov. 7 general election ballot.

The task force divided the projects into two phases, starting with the coliseum, convention center, parking and a "feasibility study" for a light rail system. The first phase would total about $191 million. Recommended is a 2 percent tourism promotion tax that could raise $17 million per year and could amortize the bonds over a 20-year period.

"An entertainment tax would be an ideal source," said Benjamin, adding the tax would include eating at restaurants, hotel stays, show tickets and movie rentals.

The second phase includes a Route 66 attraction with tours and a museum. Also, development of the Greenwood and Brady districts where a Jazz Walk of Fame and memorial to the victims of the 1921 race riot could be built.

The $84.5 million second phase could be funded from a 1/4 cent sales tax over five years. The sales tax wouldn't go into effect
until 2001 with the expiration of a current sales tax.

"The people of Tulsa wanted to keep the sales tax as close to 8 percent as possible, and this proposal would allow us to do that," Benjamin said.

An estimated $40 million in private funds will be used, according to the report.

In December 1993, Oklahoma City voters approved a five-year penny sales tax to fund the Metropolitan Area Projects, or MAPS.
The tax generated about $309 million for projects including the Southwestern Bell Bricktown Ballpark, a downtown canal, a new music hall and a new downtown arena.

"It's just been amazing down here," said Oklahoma City Assistant City Manager Jim Couch. "It was slow to get going, there was some disappointment early on, but I think most approve of it now."

Benjamin said the Tulsa task force held town hall meetings and posted a Web site for the public ideas and suggestions.

"We took a real grassroots approach," he said. "It's the citizens of Tulsa who really are the ones coming up with this plan."
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On the Net: Tulsa Convention and Tourism Task Force:http://www.conventionstulsa.com

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