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story.lead_photo.caption A baseball diamond is seen on Thursday at the Grady T. Wallace Soccer Complex in Texarkana, Texas. The Texas side plans to use $200,000 in hotel tax revenue on ballfields and related facilities to invest in youth sports tournaments. Photo by Hunt Mercier / Texarkana Gazette.

TEXARKANA, Texas — City officials hope a six-figure investment will pay off by bringing youth sports money into the local economy.

The city's proposed Fiscal Year 2020 budget includes a $200,000 expenditure to pay for sports facility improvements and other means of attracting youth tournaments, which can infuse the local economy with cash as hundreds of young athletes and their families come to Texarkana and stay overnight. Funding will come from hotel occupancy tax revenues that by state law must be used to promote tourism.

A City Council vote on adopting the budget, which would take effect Oct. 1, is scheduled for Sept. 9. If the Council votes yes, city staff will then develop specific plans for spending the sports project funds, City Manager Shirley Jaster said.

"We would want to spread that money around," said Ross Cowling, the Parks and Recreation Department's sports and league manager. He too declined to offer specifics before the funds are officially allocated and a plan is developed.

The 7% hotel occupancy tax the city collects brought in more than $1.55 million in each of the past two fiscal years, and a slightly lower amount, more than $1.54 million, is forecast for the coming year.

By law, the funds must be spent "only to promote tourism and the convention and hotel industry," including supporting convention centers, the arts, historical restoration and preservation, and sports tourism. The city uses hotel tax revenue to pay about $560,000 a year in debt service on the Texas-side convention center, as well as to fund arts and tourism efforts such as the Texarkana Regional Arts and Humanities Council and the Texarkana Arts and Historic District.

None of the hotel tax funds have been used for sports tourism in a number of years, but the citizen committee appointed by the Council to advise staff on the budget recommended changing that this year. Jaster too sees the economic potential in the youth sports industry.

"When we bring people into the community, they stay at a hotel, they eat here, and hopefully they buy things here," she said.

Each member of a youth baseball or softball team brings an average of three people with them when they travel to a tournament, not including coaches, Cowling said.

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