More than a dozen supporters of a new BMX Supercross race track attended Monday’s Rock Hill City Council meeting as officials signed off on paying for a project estimated to add $4 million yearly to the city’s sports tourism efforts.
Talk of a BMX – or bicycle motocross – track began in 2008, as a facility that would complement other recreational projects at Riverwalk.
Since then, the city’s potential gain from the bike track is “even bigger probably than originally envisioned,” said John Gettys, chair of the Rock Hill Sports Commission and former city councilman.
Council members unanimously approved on Monday borrowing $6.5 million to pay for the $1 million BMX track and other supporting development in the Riverwalk area.
Included in the upcoming development near the track is a concession and restroom facility that will cost about $1.5 million, a new access road in Riverwalk that will cost about $823,000 and recreational and multipurpose fields that will cost about $928,000.
Rock Hill already has about 20 percent of the track and associated projects paid for.
The city’s hospitality tax dollars – a 2 percent charge levied on prepared food at businesses and a 3 percent charge on hotel rooms – will pay back the money borrowed to complete the construction.
For the next 20 years, Rock Hill will take about $450,000 annually from the hospitality tax account to pay back the loan.
Supporters on Monday celebrated the fact that Rock Hill could build an Olympic-caliber BMX track in less than one year without raising property tax rates. Officials say Rock Hill will be hosting races at Riverwalk by February 2014.
Money brought in through the hospitality tax has been on the rise in Rock Hill, Gettys said.
Since 2003, money gathered from the tax has grown by 5.6 percent at businesses serving food and by 6.7 percent at hotels.
It’s expected that Rock Hill will see more growth – probably 5 percent – in hospitality tax dollars every year for the next five years, he said.
State law lets cities use a portion of that tax to run and maintain tourism-related facilities. Cities also can use sales tax dollars to build infrastructure such as roads or utility systems that support tourism-related facilities.
Rock Hill officials say that last year sports tourism pumped about $18 million into the city economy.
Businesses will see that dollar amount increase after the BMX track is complete, Gettys said.
USA BMX, the sport’s national organization, has promised that Rock Hill’s track annually will host two state championships, one regional championship and one national event. City officials estimate the track will host 34 BMX races a year.
Supporters say those events will bring up to 30,000 visitors each year who will rent about 4,000 hotel rooms in the city.
Track construction is expected to begin in the summer.
Also this summer, Physicians Choice will break ground in Riverwalk – becoming the new business park’s first industrial tenet.
City Council unanimously approved an incentive plan for the medical testing operation that says it will create 364 new jobs over the next five years.
Physicians Choice, which is relocating from Charlotte, plans to invest $10 million in purchasing land at Riverwalk and $17 million in machinery and equipment.
The company says it will pay employees at least $16.45 per hour – which is York County’s average hourly wage.
In December, York County Council approved tax incentives for Physicians Choice.
On Monday, the Rock Hill City Council committed to reimburse the company’s infrastructure construction costs out of money Physicians Choice will pay in property tax over the next five years.
Riverwalk is a 1,000-acre space near Interstate 77 and Cherry Road. Physicians Choice will locate in the area’s 315-acre business park.
Anna Douglas • 803-329-4068