TDA cuts Dragway grant


By Kevin Spradlin

Related coverage
* June 9: Tourism slashes allocations budget
* May 12: County tourism to seek additional personnel
* May 7: ‘I promise you it will work’
* April 14: TDA taps Pruett as tourism director
* Feb. 11: TDA adopts tourism plan
* Jan. 22: ‘A playground for the creative class’

ROCKINGHAM — It might have gotten just a little more difficult to get a high-dollar figure out of the Richmond County Tourism Development Authority.

Kelly Pruett, tourism director, and TDA board members met Tuesday to approve the Fiscal Year 2016 budgt. The group also considered two requests for funding.

TDA_Logo-2015It was relatively easy for TDA members to support Cole Auditorium Director Joey Bennett’s request for $5,000 that will be used to increase advertising. The TDA hasn’t awarded any funds to the Cole to promote the DeWitt Performance Series since Kelly Pickler was on stage a few years ago. The series operates on an annual budget of $180,000, including $10,000 in advertising.

A discussion about Rockingham Dragway owner Steve Earwood’s request for $52,725, however, took a little longer to sift through.

The Dragway hosts 60-plus events from February to December each year. Earwood received $45,000 in the current fiscal year. In his request packet, Earwood told board members that then requested amount would help offset an estimated $136,000 in marketing and paid media efforts.

A total of $40,000 would be for marketing while $12,725 would specifically “help cover production costs pertaining to television coverage of The Super Chevy Show presented by Richmond County Tourism as one of the crown jewels of drag racing specialty events.”

Pruett said she visited Earwood at his office across from the Rockingham Speedway. One of the things she noticed was boxes upon boxes of brochures not distributed to potential customers. Pruett said she’s asked him to re-evalute the number of brochures printed and felt that’s an area ripe for potential savings.

“There probably are ways I can help him,” Pruett said.

Still, $52,725 was too large a figure for board members to swallow. Pruett said with her in position, TDA members should expect representatives of other attractions to apply for funding.

“The larger amounts may not be quite as easy to get,” Pruett said.

It might rather, she said, be about helping 10 attractions with $5,000 grants.

The TDA is fully funded by hotel/motel tax revenue by tacking on a 6 percent tax on each night’s hotel stay. It operates on an annual budget of approximately $250,000.

The county and city split equally a 6 percent tax on each night’s hotel stay.  The TDA is governed by a seven-member board. The board is comprised of four members appointed by the Richmond County Board of Commissioners, two by Rockingham City Council and one from the Richmond County Chamber of Commerce.

Monty Crump, Rockingham city manager, acknowledged the Dragway as “a huge draw … (that) does bring a lot of people in the county.”

But given the reduced amount in allocations — the board agreed to slash funding in Fiscal Year 2016 by 41 percent, to $118,000 from $200,000 — members were less inclined to give the Dragway a green light.

The money is to come from the county’s $59,000 of tourism dollars, County Manager Rick Sago, who also is TDA chairman.

“We’re basically going to blow it” with a single request,” Sago said. “I’m more apt to look at $40,000 than $52,725. That’s just my opinion.”

Rockingham Mayor Steve Morris, TDA vice chairman, said that “in the grand scheme, we’re going to do a lot of things that are going to help him.”

Sago said he felt Earwood would “be thrilled” with $40,000.

Filed in: Latest Headlines, Outdoors

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  • hanktuesday

    The same mindset that eventually ran NASCAR out of the county? Maybe? Visitors use hotel rooms, when they don’t visit TDA has less money to play with.

  • Flower Child

    Looks like the TDA would try and help out the drag way.mthey don’t mind taking the money the events at the drag way brings in.

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