Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Eric Spoonmore spoke today in favor of the Monroe County Commissioners’ historic vote to establish a Capital Improvement Board (CIB) to facilitate and manage the long-awaited Monroe Convention Center expansion project.
“The Chamber is 100% in support of forming the Capital Improvement Board,” Spoonmore said prior to the vote. “We thank the county commissioners for their leadership. This CIB is a momentous step toward achieving substantive progress on this important project in our community,” he continued.
The newly formed CIB will be composed of seven appointed members. Two appointments will be made by the mayor of Bloomington, two appointments will be made by the county commissioners, one appointment will be made by the county council, and one appointment will be made by the Bloomington city council. Those six appointees will vote to select the seventh member of the CIB.
NOTE: This article that features The Chamber's President & CEO, Eric Spoonmore, was published on June 28, 2023 in the B Square Bulletin by Dave Askins. Photos are provided by B Square Bulletin.
The long-planned expansion of the Monroe Convention Center, which has been stalled since March 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, could take a small step forward next week.
At their regular meeting next Wednesday (July 5), Monroe County commissioners are likely to consider and approve an ordinance that will establish a seven-member capital improvement board (CIB) to provide the governance structure for the expansion. [2023-06-28 draft ordinance]
Expectations about next week’s action are based on the discussion at a Wednesday work session, which was held by commissioners following their regular meeting.
The previous night, at a county council work session, attended by commissioner Penny Githens, the council passed a motion made by councilor Geoff McKim, which supported the path that the commissioners are now taking.
NOTE: This "It's Your Business" column by Chamber CEO Eric Spoonmore was published in the December 30, 2022 Bloomington Herald-Times.
The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce continues to support the expansion of the Monroe Convention Center. The expansion will be paid for by revenue from the 1% food and beverage tax that was passed in 2017 by the Monroe County Council. Disappointingly, there has been no tangible progress on the expansion despite nearly $15 million in food and beverage tax revenue collected over the past five years.
However, a glimmer of hope came in November when meaningful steps were taken by county government to move forward with expansion plans. All three county commissioners unanimously agreed to create a Capital Improvement Board (CIB) that would give the city of Bloomington equal representation on the CIB. In the following weeks, all seven county council representatives unanimously supported the county commissioners’ CIB plan. Two weeks later, a supermajority of city council members voted 8-1 to support the plan for a CIB. For the first time in six years, strong momentum was building for the long-awaited convention center expansion project. Elected officials across the city and county were working together to achieve progress on this shared community goal.
Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Eric Spoonmore announced today that the Chamber is backing a plan that involves a newly created Capital Improvement Board (CIB) to manage the Monroe Convention Center expansion project. The Chamber urges elected leaders to swiftly accept the proposal and appoint members to serve on the CIB as soon as possible.
“The Chamber closely examined the various governance proposals submitted by City and County leaders, and we agree that the community’s interest is best served by a CIB that will oversee the expansion and related construction activities of the convention center,” said Spoonmore.
Over the past year, the Chamber along with other local economic development organizations has urged elected leaders to take quick action on the expansion plans to avoid a sunset of the Monroe County Food & Beverage Tax funding mechanism by the State Legislature in its upcoming 2023 session.
“Time is truly of the essence to get this done. We hope all parties can agree to the CIB governance plan as it stands. Taxpayers have been paying the Food and Beverage tax for five years with no tangible results. It is time to deliver on the promise of an expanded, world-class convention center here in Bloomington,” said Spoonmore.
County Commissioners took a step forward on the expansion plans by enacting a CIB in November. The CIB is fully accountable to the public and established in accordance with state statute. The County Council unanimously favors the CIB plan, but it requires City leaders to agree by January 1, 2023. The City Council is expected to discuss the CIB proposal at its next meeting on December 14.
NOTE: This Noon Edition interview with Chamber CEO Eric Spoonmore was published in the September 9, 2022 WFIU Noon Edition by Nathan Moore.
Discussions between city and county officials over the Monroe Convention Center’s expansion and ownership continue. Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton’s administration offered to buy the convention center for $4 million to accelerate its expansion. The expansion is expected to cost tens of millions to complete.
The purpose of this expansion is to host larger events, increasing tourism dollars and boosting the local economy.
The goal for the city administration and local businesses leaders is to get a deal done by the end of the month, but some county officials say they don’t support the city’s plan.
A main funding source for the center is a 1% food and beverage tax that has collected more than $14 million. That tax could be threatened in the next legislative session.
NOTE: This article that highlights President & CEO, Eric Spoonmore's, involvement was published in the August 31, 2022 B Square Bulletin by Dave Askins. Photos are gathered from the article as well.
On Wednesday at noon, the possible expansion of the county convention center was the topic of a meeting of Monroe County and Bloomington officials.
The gathering at the county courthouse included county commissioners, some county councilors, city councilmembers and the mayor’s office.
It was the first time that representatives from all four groups had sat at the same table on that topic since early March of 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
After about 45 minutes of conversation, the group had not made much progress, but agreed it was worth another meeting.
The city wants to get a deal done by the end of September. So “sooner rather than later” was the city’s wish for a next scheduled meeting.
One twist that emerged on Wednesday was the possibility that a convention center deal between the city and the county could hinge on Bloomington’s approval of a rezone for land that the county wants to use for construction of a new jail.
PRESS RELEASE: Chamber of Commerce, Community Await Commissioners’ Response to Convention Center Proposal
The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce along with numerous community partners plan to attend the Monroe County Commissioners’ work session on Wednesday, August 31 to discuss a pathway forward for the expansion of the Monroe Convention Center. The Commissioners’ work session will begin at noon in the Monroe County Courthouse, Nat U Hill Room.
“We are anxiously awaiting the County Commissioners’ response to the City of Bloomington’s proposal to acquire the Monroe Convention Center and begin moving forward on expansion,” said Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce President Eric Spoonmore. “We are very pleased that the County Commissioners invited City representatives to their meeting for this important discussion.”
The Chamber of Commerce, City of Bloomington representatives, and local hospitality & tourism leaders will be present at the work session to advocate for a pathway forward on the convention center expansion project. The long-delayed project was supposed to be funded by a local food and beverage tax that passed in 2017. Since then, the tax has generated over $15M in revenue, but the project has seen no progress to date.
“The lack of any meaningful progress on the expansion is deeply concerning because it could put the future of the food and beverage tax funding mechanism in jeopardy by the State Legislature during its 2023 legislative session,” said Spoonmore. “Time is of the essence, and the Commissioners’ teamwork in this process is critical to achieving a successful outcome for the community.”
NOTE: This article that highlights President & CEO, Eric Spoonmore's, involvement was published in the August 10, 2022 B Square Bulletin by Dave Askins. Photos are gathered from the article as well.
While a lot of details remain to be worked out, Monroe County councilors appear receptive to the basic idea of transferring ownership of the county’s convention center and related properties to the city of Bloomington.
The city’s hoped-for timeline for getting the deal done is the end of September.
At their regular meeting on Tuesday, county councilors took turns responding to a pitch from Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce Eric Spoonmore, who is their former colleague, and Bloomington deputy mayor Don Griffin. The two gave a somewhat longer version of the proposal that county commissioners had heard during public commentary at their regular meeting last Wednesday.
The city’s pitch comes in the context of some political pressure to use the food and beverage tax, enacted in 2017 by the county council, for its lawful purpose—to expand the convention center. The hoped-for collaboration between the city and the county on a joint effort at expansion was stalled even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
One fear is that the state legislature will sunset food and beverage taxes in its 2023 session, which could be somewhat countered by action now to get the food and beverage tax revenues obligated through a bond issuance.
Bloomington’s initial convention center pitch: County transfers property, city pays debt, gets hotel tax
NOTE: This article that highlights President & CEO, Eric Spoonmore's, involvement was published in the August 5, 2022 B Square Bulletin by Dave Askins. Photos are gathered from the article as well.
The initial potential term sheet that has been floated by the city of Bloomington for the acquisition of the Monroe County convention center is now public.
The key points of the proposal include the transfer of the convention center at 3rd Street and College Avenue to the city of Bloomington—as well as other property that has been purchased by the county government with proceeds from the innkeeper’s tax.
The city wants to acquire the convention center, in order to purse an expansion of the facility independent of the county, because the joint venture between the two governments was stalled even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Under the terms, the county would also have to support an annual transfer from the county to Bloomington, or its property manager, the proceeds from the county’s 5-percent innkeeper’s tax. The tax is overseen by a five-member convention and visitors commission, which is appointed by county government. It’s the innkeeper’s tax that is used by the county to make the payments on the existing debt on the convention center.
NOTE: This article which highlights the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce was published on August 8, 2022 on Inside Indiana Business by Wes Mills.
The city of Bloomington is proposing a plan to take over ownership and operation of the Monroe Convention Center and to pay for an expansion of the venue. City leaders have submitted a proposal to the Monroe County Board of Commissioners and will present the idea Tuesday during the Monroe County Council meeting.
The plan has the backing of the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce, Visit Bloomington, and Downtown Bloomington Inc.
Under the proposal, the city would pay off the county’s existing debt on the convention center, estimated at approximately $2 million.
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