LaFave: Bill would boost recreation, sports

LANSING — State Rep. Beau LaFave Wednesday testified in support of his bill to boost economic activity related to sports and recreation across northern Michigan.

LaFave’s bill would create the Northern Michigan Regional Tourism and Sports Fund. The legislation requires that $1.9 million go into the fund every year for a decade, without raising taxes or fees. A portion of surplus money from the statewide liquor and cigarette taxes would be redirected to sports and recreation projects in northern Michigan.

“With its climate and beautiful landscape, northern Michigan is an ideal location for sports and recreational events,” LaFave, of Iron Mountain, said after testifying on his bill before the House’s Michigan Competitiveness Committee. “This bill would provide a powerful, positive jolt to tourism and help us compete with Minnesota and Wisconsin for recreation-related business.”

The region is already home to sites such as Pine Mountain ski jump in Iron Mountain, the facility the Detroit Red Wings use for training camp in Traverse City, the International 500 snowmobile race, and the Olympic training center at Northern Michigan University. Other potential projects such as Copper Peak near Ironwood are in development.

LaFave’s legislation does not specify which projects would receive money. A commission would be established to decide where the money is spent.

The money for the Northern Michigan fund would come from redirecting a small portion of existing surplus revenue from the state’s Convention Facility Development Fund.

The convention fund’s revenue comes from statewide liquor and cigarette taxes, among other sources. The convention fund is primarily used to help pay off debt related to Cobo Center in Detroit.

The fund had an annual surplus of about $14 million last year, so there is more than enough money to go to the northern Michigan fund without hurting existing payments.

LaFave noted the statewide tax money should be directed in ways that benefit all of Michigan, not just Detroit.

“The people of northern Michigan pay into this fund through the statewide taxes,” LaFave said. “It’s only appropriate that northern Michigan gets its fair share, providing an economic boost and tourism that will benefit the entire state.”