Five projects in Pinellas County, Florida, will receive nearly $40 million in funding.
The County Commission has approved $40 million from bed tax paid by visitors to hotels, motels and other overnight rentals. The tax will help fund five major projects over the next five years.
Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, the marketing agency for Pinellas County, will use each of the five venues receiving funding for promotional tourism efforts. This includes being granted permanent space in the lobbies for a welcome center.
The largest single sum, $26 million, will go to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Those funds will go towards the $66 million expansion of the site on Island Estates: that will see five new dolphin pools, a new parking garage, elevated viewing areas, and 102,000 square feet of additional guest space.
Another $6 million has also been approved for the upcoming Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, which is under construction in St Petersburg. They will receive this funding over the next 3 years.
$5.5 million will be for Ruth Eckerd Hall, which is undergoing a $17 million renovation to construct a grand lobby, a 250-seat cabaret theatre and other upgrades.
$1.9 million will be for the Countryside Sports Complex. This will pay for new restrooms, a press box, field renovations and other improvements.
$495,000 will go to the Eddie C. Moore Softball Complex.
An impact across Pinellas County
In a report from the Tampa Bay Times, Commissioner Charlie Justice said: “I see this as a chance for the tourists to help contribute to projects that are going to benefit not only tourism, which I think it will, but also to enhance the quality of life for our residents and take some of that tax burden off.”
Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos believes that the investments will have an impact across Pinellas County. Visitors attending sports events will also visit the county’s beaches and restaurants.
“We’re competing not only with other states to bring tourists to our state, we’re competing with the world.”
Image Courtesy Clearwater Marine Aquarium