Visit Bentonville juggles money for funding requests

Posted: November 11, 2017 at 1 a.m.

BENTONVILLE -- The city's tourism commission is going to have to set aside more money if it wants to grant all the requests for events drawing visitors.

The Advertising and Promotion Commission, the governing body of the city's tourism bureau Visit Bentonville, allocated $44,000 earlier this month to support nine events coming to town next year. That leaves $5,600 of the original $130,000 for events in 2018. In earlier meetings, commissioners approved money for 12 other events next year.

Awarded Money

Visit Bentonville has allotted $130,000 to help support events that show promise of bringing tourism to the city in 2018. Here’s what’s been awarded so far:

• $7,500: Ultimate Arm-Wrestling League Arkansas State Championship, Jan. 16-17

• $3,500: UAM Softball Challenge, Feb. 9-11

• $15,500: NCAA Nine-State Softball Classic, Feb. 16-19

• $4,000: American Cornhole Organization’s Bentonville major tournament, March 8-10

• $7,000: International Mountain Bicycling Association’s Uprising (women’s summit), March 22-25

• $7,500: American Junior Golf Association Junior at Lost Springs, March 29 - April 1

• $4,000: The Warm Up basketball event, April 6-8

• $3,500: Great American Conference Tennis Championship, April 19-21

• $4,000: Arkansas Athletic Association annual symposium, April 27-29

• $13,500: Great American Conference Softball Championship, May 2-5

• $7,500: Public Land Solution’s Prosperous Communities Conference, May 9-11

• $3,000: Trade with Africa Business Summit, May 11

• $7,500: Adams Golf Pro Tour Series, June 4-9

• $5,000: Walton Art Center’s Artosphere, June 10-23

• $7,500: National Interscholastic Cycling Association’s National Conference, June 13-18

• $5,000: Northwest Arkansas Shakespeare Festival, July 7-14

• $2,500: NWA Aquatics Long Course State Championships, July 26-29

• $10,000: Bentonville High School Marching Band Invitational, Oct. 6

• $6,400: JUCO Fall Softball Showcase, Oct. 12-14

Source: Visit Bentonville

Chris Sooter, chairman, said 2017 isn't over yet and other events might come up.

Seven of the nine events seeking money at the commission's November meeting received less than requested so each would receive some support.

"I do think that every event that we have sitting at the table today is a huge value to our tourism industry, and I think that we need to fund them all in some way. We just couldn't fund everything in total," said Kalene Griffith, Visit Bentonville president and CEO.

Two events received the full money requested: The Great American Conference Tennis Tournament for $3,500 and Great American Conference Softball Tournament for $13,500. The tournaments have brought other sporting events to Bentonville, she said.

The other events received between $2,000 and $6,000 less than requested. Some, such as a Trade With Africa Business Summit and the Northwest Arkansas Shakespeare Festival, are new. Others have received support before, such as basketball event The Warm UP.

"We talked to them about this and it will probably be the last year funding it," Griffith said of The Warm UP.

Visit Bentonville helps events in their first few years in hopes that they can establish sponsorships, she said.

This will be the third year Visit Bentonville will give money to Warm UP. Organizers requested $10,000. Commissioners approved $4,000.

Nicholas Mason, the group's representative, told commissioners the reduced money was OK.

"This is like our home now," he said. "This isn't going to be something we take and move elsewhere. You guys have helped us out, especially in the early years when the expenses were extremely high."

In other business, the commission discussed a draft of its 2018 budget.

The expected revenue of nearly $2.4 million is a 1.5 percent increase over this year's, according to Griffith. She said that's a low estimate, especially if the last few months of this year are busy. The money comes from a 2 percent tax on hotel and motel rooms and a 1 percent tax on restaurants and prepared food.

The budget includes money for Visit Bentonville to add an employee who would help with the logistics of large events such as the Bentonville Film Festival, Griffith said.

It also includes $106,000 for special projects. For example, $25,000 is set aside to partner with Little Rock to sponsor a media event at the Food and Wine Festival in Atlanta, where local chefs will participate.

Having media interact with Bentonville-based chefs may bring food writers to the city, thus increasing exposure, Griffith said.

There's also $10,000 set aside for a culinary event, $30,000 for two mountain biking events, $25,000 for music events, $14,000 for other festivals and $2,200 for the Bentonville History Museum.

The commission is expected to finish working out the details of its budget at the December meeting.

NW News on 11/11/2017