Tulsa has backed out of the running to host the 2021 Bassmaster Classic, and the Tulsa Regional Chamber blames an ongoing lawsuit it said is keeping the city from getting money from a new hotel tax.
The chamber estimates the Bassmaster Classic would have had a $30 million impact on the city. The event came to Tulsa in 2013 and 2016.
"Taking the risk without the funds just didn't make sense,” Visit Tulsa President Ray Hoyt said.
Hoyt is also the Chamber Senior Vice President of Regional Tourism.
"We've been looking at this for a few days and I spoke to them and basically said we had to withdraw from 21 for basically lack of committed funds,” Hoyt said.
Funding from the Tourism Improvement District, or TID, is in limbo right now. It tacks on a three percent charge for occupied rooms at all Tulsa hotels with 110 rooms or more. In June, a Tulsa County judge ordered the city to stop collecting that tax money from hotels while the lawsuit plays out in court.
The City of Tulsa said it calculated that for each month it is unable to collect the TID assessment charge, it is losing an estimated $292,500 that would be invested in marketing the city and attracting conferences and events to the community.
"As far as us trying to hurt events coming to Tulsa, that's an insult to somebody's intelligence,” Attorney Lee Levinson said.
Levinson represents Aloft Hotels, and about a dozen other hotels, he said, in the lawsuit against the city. Levinson claims what the Tourism Improvement District is doing is unconstitutional.
"If you have 109, 108 rooms, you don't pay anything. If you have 110 or more, you do. That's not reasonable. Special tax classification,” he said.
Hoyt said the hotel tax charge is necessary for Tulsa to be competitive in our region and would be used for things like incentives and marketing. But Levinson wants more specifics about how the money would be spent.
Ultimately a judge will decide the fate of the tax, and would take into consideration any opinion the Oklahoma Attorney General's office might provide.