VisitPittsburgh renews push to attract big sports events like Super Bowl – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

VisitPittsburgh is renewing its bid to create a sports commission to help attract big sports events like the Super Bowl and the NCAA basketball tournament to Pittsburgh.

The local tourism agency has reintroduced legislation before the state General Assembly to create the commission after a similar bill died at the end of the last session.

“We feel very strongly this is our year,” said Craig Davis, VisitPittsburgh’s CEO. “We feel strongly that we have the support, particularly in the House, to bring this through.”

VisitPittsburgh is pushing for a 2 percentage point increase in Allegheny County’s 7-percent hotel tax to fund the commission. If approved, the agency has agreed to impose only a 1.25 percentage point increase at this time.

The increase would generate an estimated $6 million a year, with $1.3 million of that used to fund the commission, which would be independent of VisitPittsburgh.

Another $1.3 million would go into a pot of money to help subsidize major sporting events — “something that would be impactful and bring a lot of direct spending,” Mr. Davis said before VisitPittsburgh’s annual meeting.

In addition, the Pittsburgh Film Office would receive $600,000. The rest of the money would be used to help bring more conventions to town, to make community parks tournament-ready for sports-related events, and to help fund the Visit Monroeville tourism agency.

Mr. Davis believes a commission would help the city to land bigger and better events. It also could be used to nurture and grow sports like soccer and hockey. More than 100 other cities in the U.S. have commissions.

The money generated by the increase could also help to backstop revenue guarantees some major sporting events require before committing to a city, Mr. Davis said.

One thing the sports commission wouldn’t fund is the improvements the Pirates and the Steelers are seeking to PNC Park and Heinz Field, respectively.

VisitPittsburgh is hoping to have the legislation approved by the General Assembly before the end of the year.

At a press conference before the annual meeting, Mr. Davis said 2016 proved to be a “very good year” for bookings.

In 2016, VisitPittsburgh booked 598 meetings, conventions, and sports events worth an estimated $204.8 million in direct spending.

That is an increase from the 577 events booked in 2015 with an estimated $156 million in direct spending.

Mark Belko: or 412-263-1262.


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