Big plans are underway to upgrade and improve Raleigh’s numerous parks, including a possible gondola connecting Dorothea Dix Park with the city’s downtown.
As expected, these upgrades come with a large pricetag. Could local officials therefore look to North Carolina’s Major Events, Games, and Attractions Fund as a possible source of revenue?
The MEGA Fund is incorporated into the North Carolina online sports betting law to “foster job creation and investment in the economy of this state.”
Of the 18% tax the NC Department of Revenue will collect on gross wagering revenues from sports betting, 30% is earmarked for NC’s MEGA Fund.
The Department of Commerce, within whose purview the Fund falls, may provide grants to site selection organizations and local entities looking to bring political, sporting, and musical events to North Carolina in the future.
Conditions for an entity to receive a MEGA Fund grant
While the legislation does not lay out a selection process, to become eligible recipients must meet several conditions. Those include:
- The major event suggested must generate enough economic activity to sufficiently justify using State funds to attract and retain the event in NC.
- The major event will garner positive media exposure for North Carolina as an additional help to spur travel and tourism within the State.
- The site selection organization must have considered multiple sites located outside of the State for the event.
- The site selection organization has selected a site within this State as the sole location for the event.
- The event occurs not more than once a year.
- The project will benefit the people of this state by increasing job opportunities and strengthening the state’s economy.
- The project is consistent with economic development goals for the State and for the area where it will be located.
- A grant under this Part is necessary to attract or retain the major event within this State.
- The total benefits must outweigh its costs and render the grant appropriate for the major event.
Dix Park Upgrades
The City of Raleigh plans to turn its 300-acre Dix Park into America’s next great public park. And though it lies only a mile east of downtown it is not easily accessible for pedestrians. To solve this problem, the city is entertaining a novel idea – construct a gondola to connect Dix Park with downtown.
In North America, Gondolas bring ritzy skiing resorts like Aspen and Whistler to mind. Yet an increasing number of urban areas in the United States are considering gondolas to transport people from place to place efficiently.
Last year, the city broke ground on its first major project, the Gibson Play Plaza. This inspiring public space for all ages will incorporate play spaces, works of art, a civic plaza and gardens.
Another major project under the city’s Master Plan is the Rocky Branch Enhancement. The idea behind the undertaking is to create a nature escape in the city’s heart. This will happen by restoring and enhancing the Rocky Branch along the northern edge of the park.
MEGA Fund feasible for Dix Park?
According to Dix Park Conservancy CEO Janet Cowell, it will take a lot of investment, particularly private dollar donations to subsidize all these upgrades.
But could the city apply for a grant from the MEGA Fund to offset some of these costs? Not realistically given the conditions stipulated in the legislation. Firstly, the city would have to bring a major event to Dix Park each year; one preferably held in a sports facility.
A major event, as stated in House Bill 347, is an entertainment, musical, political, sporting, or theatrical event with the following conditions:
– The event takes place at a sports facility.
– It is sponsored by the National Association for Stock Car Racing, the Ladies Professional Golf Association, the Professional Golfer’s Association of America, the PGA Tour, or the United States Golf Association.
It appears unlikely that the city will get any of these associations to sponsor a major event at Dix Park.
Furthermore, the law states that “the economic activity directly or indirectly attributable to the major event is sufficient to justify the use of State funds.”
NCSharp.com contacted Raleigh City Council and asked Council Services Chief Louis Buonpane about any plans to tap into the MEGA Fund.
“Not at this time,” Bounpane said. “I do not believe any grant programs are in effect as of yet. When grant processes are announced the City would likely evaluate at that time whether or not to submit a grant application, dependent upon the specific requirements/goals/objectives of any grant opportunities.”
The office of Mayor Mary-Ann Balwin declined to comment and referred back to Louis Buonpane’s statement.