There's more than just soccer fields riding on Tuesday's ballot issue to increase the lodging tax in the tri-county area.

There's more than just soccer fields riding on Tuesday's ballot issue to increase the lodging tax in the tri-county area.

For those on the yes side of the proposal, it's not only promoting Lake of the Ozarks as a destination for soccer tournaments, but about minimizing the impact of a seasonal economy bringing more tax revenue and creating more employment opportunities.

For those opposing the increase, the discussion has focused on placing an unfair burden on small resorts and their clients who will pay the increased price. They object to how the proposal was handled by the lodging association.

Although the tax proposal was announced in February, it has only been in the last three weeks that those opposed to the measure stepped forward vocalizing their objections.

In the meantime a group of lake area businesses stepped forward supporting the complex, Citizens for the Promotion of Sports Tourism at Lake of the Ozarks. As of Nov. 1, Citizens for the Promotion of Sports Tourism at Lake of the Ozarks had raised more than $48,000.

Central Bank, Lake Regional Health Systems, Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau, Performance Boat/Redhead Lakeside Grill, Bridal Cave and the Bagnell Dam Board of Realtors, along with other lake area entities are among the supporters.

The proposed lodging tax increase to fund the destination soccer complex has been more than a year in the making from discussions to Tuesday's election. In February of this year, Tri-County Lodging Association, the entity that oversees collection of the lodging tax in Camden, Miller and Morgan counties, voted to move forward with a proposed increase on the lodging tax visitors pay for overnight stays. If approved, the tax will be the funding base for construction and management of a destination soccer complex. The land for the complex has been donated.

“This is a pivotal opportunity for our community,” said Dane Henry, CEO of Lake Regional Health System. “We can choose to make an immediate impact on growth and development by welcoming youth sports to our area. Or, we can sit on the sidelines.

“As a health care provider, it’s impossible to ignore how the local economy affects the health of the people we serve. When people earn good wages year-round, their health improves because they seek preventive care and take medicines as prescribed. Unfortunately in our community, too many workers rely on seasonal work and fluctuating wages. That forces them to make tough decisions for their families about when to seek care,” he continued.

“In our viewpoint, this project is a win-win. More families visiting our area for recreation will mean more jobs and better economic and physical health for area residents.”

On the other side of the proposal is a group of small resort owners. Mike Spriggs, owner of Point Randall Resort and a member of the TCLA board, disagrees with the proposed tax increase.

A large majority of the lodging facilities, which includes almost all family resorts, do not want the increase, Spriggs said.

“The Osage Beach Soccer Complex visitors will not be staying at family resorts as research has shown they are most likely to stay close to the complex. However, we will have to collect an additional 3% from our customer base, including return customers. Some of these customers have been staying at resorts for 30 or more years,” he said. “During the summer, a week-long stay can easily cost $1,500 and will add $45 to their bill. Families are on budgets and cuts will be made… maybe one less time going out for dinner or not renting a personal watercraft or even worse… shortening their stay.”

Those long-time return customers, whether they are families, fishermen, golf groups, bikers, retirees, and others will all have to pay an additional 3% to build a soccer complex in Osage Beach and they will have to pay the increase forever since the tax does not sunset meaning it never goes away, he said.

Supporters say the lodging tax increase will not only bring additional lodging tax but will bring people to the lake to spend money shopping, dining out and other activities as well as create a new market of return visitors.

If approved, tax on overnight stays in 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%.

Bonds would be issued for a term of approximately 20-23 years for the development of the soccer complex. The city of Osage Beach has agreed to partner with TCLA to take over the construction, maintenance and operations of the complex.

If the project moves forward, the additional room nights that are generated in the spring and fall would add additional lodging tax revenues for the TCLA to be utilized for the promotion and advertising of the Lake of the Ozarks. These funds are in addition to the funds currently collected.

The soccer tournaments included in the proposal mandate a minimum two-night stay and play policy, which means all tournament overnight arrangements will only be made with TCLA accommodation facilities who are current in their collection and remittance of the county lodging tax.