The Extraco Events Center will receive a major overhaul after McLennan County voters agreed to the implementation of a tax surcharge on hotel stays and car rentals.

The proposal passed with 2,856 people, or 67.4 percent, voting in favor of creating a 2 percent hotel occupancy tax and a 5 percent tax on short-term car rentals. There were 1,381 people, or 32.6 percent, who opposed the tax.

Countywide turnout in the joint general election was 4,292 voters, just 3.3 percent of the 130,830 voters registered in the county.

Leaders from the county, city of Waco, Waco Independent School District and the Extraco Events Center teamed up in hopes of passing the tax they said would generate more than $34.4 million for an overhaul of the 60-acre fairgrounds off Bosque Boulevard. Proponents say the idea is the tax would fall primarily on visitors of the Waco area.

A proposal for the renovations of the site co-owned by the city, school district and county includes adding a new $14 million, 800-square-foot multipurpose center connected to the existing coliseum. Plans also included rebuilding Waco ISD’s Paul Tyson Field and the Lake Air Little League facilities, and adding another 300 horse and livestock stalls, for more than 1,000 total.

The fairgrounds has a $47 million economic impact on the area, which would jump to $60 million with the overhaul at full build out, according to a Baylor University study.

“You’re talking about a game-changer in our business with this model,” Wes Allison, Extraco Events Center president and CEO, has previously said. “We don’t know of another single facility, at least in the state of Texas and probably in the Southwest, that will have the type of sports activities going on, with the type of equine activities we will have going on, under one complex. And being that one and only is cool. It’s always fun to be the first one.”

The Extraco Events Center averages about 125 events a year, from meetings to the Heart O’ Texas Fair & Rodeo, Allison has said.

Horse shows are held 48 of the 52 weeks a year, he said. The center also averages about 450,000 in attendance every year.

Friends of the Heart O’ Texas Fairground submitted a campaign finance report detailing expenditures and contributions from April 6 to 28. During that time, the group received $14,350 in political contributions, including $10,000 from the McLennan County Fair. The group got 10 donations, four of which were in the amount of $1,000. Two of the donations came from banks, including one from Extraco Bank.

Friends of the Heart O’ Texas Fairground also reported spending $9,975 on advertising during that time.

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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