The organizers behind a ticket-tax proposal that would raise money for the arts and bankroll upgrades to Nationwide Arena now are considering ways to exempt small organizations from the tax.
Artists, concert promoters and other members of the local arts community have objected to the proposed 7 percent ticket tax at recent public forums hosted by its proponent, the Greater Columbus Arts Council. They have said an admissions tax could crater attendance and hurt artists who play smaller venues.
The arts council will consider that input as it crafts a proposal to send to Columbus City Council, said Jami Goldstein, the organization’s vice president of marketing. The group plans to make its proposal to council by the time its members return from summer recess Sept. 17, she said.
“We don’t want to put a new burden on small organizations,” Goldstein said. “We also don’t want to overburden the city’s collection process.”
Ultimately, City Council will decide whether to levy a tax on tickets or admission to sports and cultural events in Columbus.
That includes events at Ohio Stadium, Nationwide Arena, the Schottenstein Center, the Greater Columbus Convention Center, the Ohio Expo Center, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and other concerts, performances, movies and events in Columbus.
Tickets to Columbus Clippers games also would be taxed.
The tax would not apply to high school or collegiate sporting events.
The arts council estimates the tax would generate about $14 million a year. Its proposal calls for 30 percent of that – about $4 million – to go to capital improvement projects at the arena, with the rest going to the arts council to distribute to arts groups.
If City Ccouncil approves the proposal, the tax could start Jan. 1. The arts council also is asking Franklin County commissioners to allocate a portion of county sales tax revenue for the arts.
Both large and small organizations have objected to the tax. In a letter to Mayor Andrew J. Ginther, officials for nine venues and organizations, led by Arnold Sports Festival co-founder Jim Lorimer, said they are concerned about the proposal.
“The ticket tax is a terrible idea regardless of the size of the venue,” said Michael Gonidakis, spokesman for Advocates for Responsible Taxation, a group formed to oppose the tax.
“Why should they get to pick winners and losers in the situation? Either it’s a good idea for everybody or a bad idea for everybody,” Gonidakis said.
He said he is not being paid to resist the ticket tax and that he believes voters should decide whether to levy it.
Most groups have complained that the tax could hurt attendance because it would put ticket prices out of reach for some attendees. The tax would raise the price of a $50 ticket to $53.50.
On Aug. 27, Goldstein provided a copy of a March 2018 survey of cultural and arts institutions across the country, including COSI and the Columbus Museum of Art, which found attendance increased by about 3 percent even when prices increased by 10 percent or more. That study was done by Morey Consulting, a South Carolina-based market-research firm.
The arts council is working with the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority, which oversees the publicly owned Nationwide Arena, as it crafts its proposal. But the arts council will make the final call on its proposal to the city, Goldstein said.
“It’s GCAC’s proposal to write,” she said.
The last of three planned public forums on the tax proposal was scheduled Tuesday Aug. 28, after ThisWeek’s press time. However, Goldstein said the arts council is considering adding a fourth event that would be scheduled in the evening.