A mix of supporters and opponents showed up at a public forum Monday night to discuss a lodging tax increase on the ballot next week. The two-hour forum was met with concerns and questions from the public as well as many who applauded the work officials are doing to bring a Destination Tournament Soccer Complex to Lake of the Ozarks.

A mix of supporters and opponents showed up at a public forum Monday night to discuss a lodging tax increase on the ballot next week. The two-hour forum was met with concerns and questions from the public as well as many who applauded the work officials are doing to bring a Destination Tournament Soccer Complex to Lake of the Ozarks.

Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitor Bureau director Tim Jacobsen presented a recap of the project and a timeline showing what has been done over the last couple of years in order to put the proposal on the ballot.

“We feel we’ve done our due diligence in going through this process,” he said. Jacobsen pointed out that even with an increase in the lodging tax, Lake of the Ozarks still falls within the average or below average in lodging tax rates imposed in other communities across the Midwest.

The soccer destination will be decided on Nov. 5 when voters from the tri-county area vote on a proposed increase in the lodging tax. If approved, the lodging tax currently paid by visitors booking overnight stays will increase. The soccer destination proposal is drawing considerable attention as some lodging owners and citizens step forward with concerns they would like addressed prior to the vote on Nov. 5 in Morgan, Miller and Camden counties. Morgan and Camden counties would go from 3% to 6%. Miller County would go from 5% from 6%. State law sets the maximum lodging tax at 6% .

At Monday night’s forum, several people spoke in favor of the project including Lake Regional Health System CEO Dane Henry and Lake of the Ozark Soccer Association representative Justin Farrell. Supporters say the soccer complex will provide additional jobs, benefit small businesses and lodging facilities who can deliver a unique experience for visitors, and will increase sales tax revenue for the area.

Questions and comments from the audience included concerns over increased traffic, employment prospects as the pitch was made that visitors would come during the “shoulder season,” fees for local players, where the money would go if the soccer complex would fall through, the use of the soccer fields for more than just soccer, as well confusion over the ballot language.

Jacobsen said the intention of the ballot initiative to increase the lodging tax to develop a Destination Tournament Soccer Complex will assist all businesses in the lake area, large and small, with economic growth by bringing families to spend money during the shoulder season.

Osage Beach Mayor John Olivarri sat alongside Jacobsen and fielded questions from the audience. Olivarri said the city believes the project is not only good for Osage Beach but the entire lake area.

In terms of economic generators, he said, the soccer destination complex is the most promising project that has been proposed in the last 15 to 20 years in terms of impact on the entire area.

“This was a strong project to begin with that became even stronger with a donor willing to donate prime property for the complex,” he said. “We see this as an opportunity to build not only soccer fields, but design fields that can also be used for baseball in addition to the existing fields that are used for youth programs.”

Olivarri said not only will the project bring families to the area, it will provide expanded opportunities for local youth who might not otherwise have the chance to the play in tournaments.