Early voting for the May 6 election starts in a little more than a week, and McLennan County residents have a chance Thursday to learn more about a ballot measure for a new tax that would support a $34.4 million overhaul of the Extraco Events Center.

Extraco Events Center officials will host a “Sip & See” at 5:30 p.m. at The Backyard, 511 S. Eighth St.

They will give a short presentation to explain a referendum on a proposed new tax on hotel stays and car rentals. Organizers say the renovations supported by the tax would put the Heart Of Texas Fairgrounds at a competitive advantage over like-size cities in Texas, allowing multiple venues to operate at the same time.

Proposed work at the 60-acre site off Bosque Boulevard includes building an 80,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art multipurpose center that would connect to the existing coliseum.

The proposition includes a 2 percent hotel occupancy tax and a 5 percent tax on short-term car rentals.

Organizers hope to see a crowd of 300 as they share how money would be collected and where it will go, said Charva Ingram, marketing director for the HOT Fair & Rodeo. A political action committee formed to support the ballot measure and proposed expansion will have members on hand to answer questions.

“The big thing for us is we want people to vote and be informed on what they are voting for,” she said.

People who stay in hotels or rent vehicles in the county, primarily people from outside the county, will pay the tax, said Wes Allison, Extraco Events Center president and CEO.

Allison has said a Baylor University study projects improvements to the fairgrounds could boost its economic impact from $47 million to $60 million.

Volunteers will be on hand until about 7 p.m.

Early voting runs April 24-29, then continues May 1-2. Applications for a ballot by mail must be received by the McLennan County elections department no later than the close of business April 25.

Cassie L. Smith has covered county government for the Tribune-Herald since June 2014. She previously worked as a reporter for the Beaumont Enterprise and The Eagle in Bryan-College Station. Smith graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington.

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