Amarillo is set to welcome a new entertainment venue to town but, not without some controversy.
As we first reported Tuesday, the city council approved an incentive package for Cinergy Entertainment.
The group would receive a partial rebate on sales taxes for ten years. Something critics say is unfair for businesses already in existence.
Cinergy Entertainment wants to build near the Townsquare development west of Soncy.
They plan a $25 million, 90,000 square foot facility that’ll house ten movie theaters, a bowling alley, dining, a full bar and an arcade.
The city is giving an incentive through the state’s 380 agreements.
This allows cities to use any revenue to incentivize parts of town.
In this case, Cinergy Entertainment will receive a half-cent sales tax rebate for ten years.
“It’s only sales tax money that they generate from this new venue. It’s no other money.” Said Mayor Paul Harpole, who voted in favor of the incentive.
Harpole was skeptical at first but says after studying 380-agreements, he voted in favor because other cities are using these incentives and he wants Amarillo to remain competitive.
“The fact is, it does not take away from anything. It’s a little bit back from what it creates.” Harpole added.
But, what about businesses already in existence in Amarillo?
The owner of Western Bowl complained to the city council Tuesday that he has been paying full sales taxes for sixty years.
Also, what about other businesses that want to locate to Amarillo? Do we have to give them the same offer?
City councilman Dr. Brian Eades says no, “if we get another business that comes in, for example a big box store that wants to spend 25 million dollars and hire 100 employees, the city council can say no. So you can say yes to some no to others, you don’t have to have a reason. It’s really rather inconsistent rather than like the AEDC that tries to be consistent.”
As the lone dissenting vote on the council, Dr. Brian Eades says he isn’t confident this new venture will create the kind of economic benefit we’re looking for. “I haven’t seen any of the economic impact data to indicate this new facility is not just going to drive business out of current business facilities like Gattis, or like the bowling alleys or like other Saturday night venues.” Eades said.
Dr. Eades is also concerned about the transparency. He says by removing a third party entity like the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation, the council then deals directly and quickly with potential businesses and undermines some of the credibility the council has with the public.