Low hotel occupancy pushes back timeline for Lubbock County Expo Center

Low hotel occupancy pushes back timeline for Lubbock County Expo Center

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - COVID-19 is now having an impact on the funding, and the timeline for the Lubbock County Expo Center.

The bonds funding the project are supported by the Hotel Occupancy Tax and the Car Rental Tax, but with hotel occupancy limited to 25 percent, county leaders say this has shifted the timeline of the Lubbock County Expo Center.

County Judge Curtis Parrish says they’re in the pre-development phase and they will see their first set of bond proceeds on or around June 11.

“Now, according to law, once we start collecting that tax, we would have one year to sell the bonds. We started collecting the tax in July of last year. And so we were kind of under a statutory deadline pressure to make sure we get this bond sold. Now, what we were able to do was to sell the bonds in phases. So rather than go after the entire amount of the bond that we could get, we decided to get this bond in phases. Our first phase was approximately $5 million or $5.1 million. With that, we are able to secure the architect, the designer and other pre-construction costs that we’ll have associated with building this Expo Center,” Judge Parrish said.

But no one was expecting a dramatic drop in travel affecting hotels and car rentals.

“The question is, when we move into the construction phase, how much bond capacity will we be able to secure out of the HOT and short term car rental?”

Judge Parrish says he’s speaking to financial advisors to determine how much revenue is coming in, but he believes what we’re seeing is short-term.

"Based on the long-term projections, we’ll be in pretty good shape. Our hotel businesses will rebound and conventions will come back, sports events will come back."

But Judge Parrish knows the size of the revenue stream will affect the amount the county is able to bond. He says he will continue to monitor the amount of money coming in from the tax.

But, this project is a public-private partnership. Randy Jordan is the Chairman of the Lubbock County Expo Center, Inc. He says fundraising is difficult right now with COVID-19.

“The fundraising aspect of it has been - slow would be an understatement. So, right now, the focus hasn’t been on fundraising; it’s been on getting things planned, getting to the point where we can get all of the ground work done so that when COVID does relax and we’re able to get this economy up and going, that we can focus on fundraising.”

Jordan says he knows adjustments may have to be made to the project.

"We may not be able to do every phase of it that we want to, where earlier we would have loved to if it had all patched together, like the arena, covered horse barns, the exhibit halls, the RB and all of those things. So what we will do is go through the planning and designing, each one we will go through separately so we will be looking at cost there , looking at how we would be able to do that. "

Jordan is still excited though to see the project move forward.

“We’re excited. The expo center is going to be a grand facility and something that we’ll all look forward to.”

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