The Financial/Economic Development/Regional Affairs (FEDRAC) committee approved $39,050 in tourism enhancement grants (TEG) for various events and organizations throughout Federal Way.
The city received 15 applications totaling almost $132,000 in requested money. The total TEG budget is $45,000, with $40,000 able to go directly to event funding, while $5,000 goes toward non-event funding projects, such as brochures for the Historical Society of Federal Way.
According to the city, the grants are aimed at "the promotion of cultural, arts, sports and community events as well as non-event programs that will enhance tourism activities in Federal Way."
Grant recipients and swimming events
A new event associated with the Farmers Market is the Apple Festival Run, scheduled for Aug. 24, and it received $8,850 from the TEG program.
Among the other events funded were the Northwest Women's Open at Twin Lakes Golf and Country Club ($3,000); the Desna Soccer Club's "Desna Cup" ($2,000); Centerstage Theatre's production of "It's Only Rock and Roll" ($3,000); a men's softball tournament ($2,000); a girls fastpitch softball tournament ($2,500); the Fiji Multi-Cultural Association's Northwest Global Fest ($9,000); King Aquatic Booster Club Invitational ($4,500); Federal Way Knights Baseball and Softball Tournament ($1,500); the Federal Way Symphony's production of "Holiday Time" ($2,000); and the Lions Club Car Show ($700).
Patrick Doherty, director of community and economic development, said the job of awarding these grants was an all-day process that went through two rounds of revisions.
"It was an all-day-long process because we had so many," he said during the committee's April 23 meeting.
A Lodging Tax Advisory Committee (LTAC) sub-committee came up with recommendations totaling $24,800 for these projects, Doherty said.
"There was a robust discussion at LTAC about the projects — basically, for the most part, recognizing some of these requests were being underfunded," he said. "And those who participated in the sub-committee indicated they felt very constrained by the $40,000 budget for these requests."
Doherty said the larger LTAC committee bumped up the amount for a number of requests, and plans on asking the city to move some money around for the fall round of applications.
With the recent success of the U.S. Olympic Diving Trials and the NCAA Diving and Swimming Championships, Councilmember Bob Celski asked if there's anything being done to set aside money to try and attract those events again in the future.
"We believe we are setting ourselves up to be on a four-year cycle between the women's and men's events," Doherty said of the NCAA events. "We will be in a position to make a bid for the next one."
As far as the Olympic trials go, Doherty indicated that the city's next chance to host an event like that would be quite a few years down the road — although the city is still setting aside money to attract that kind of event in the future.
Councilmember Diana Noble-Gulliford asked about the U.S. Open, scheduled for 2015 at the Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place, and whether Federal Way would be able to take advantage of that event.
"We can...if we're engaged enough, if we end up having a big enough block of rooms (at hotels), we could contemplate what we did last year with the banners," he said, referencing a number of banners the city placed throughout Federal Way during the Olympic dive trials. "So if people do stay here, they'll feel they're part of the fun here in Federal Way, as well."
Celski also had questions about the "scoring matrix" used to weigh applicants for the tourism grants.
"Is there a correlation between scoring and the final recommendation for funding?" he asked, noting that the Federal Way Farmers Market event received the lowest score, but is receiving a lot of money.
"Is there any purpose to the scoring at all?" Celski asked.
Doherty said there is supposed to be a correlation, but conceded there are some "irregularities" between scoring and the amount of funding an event receives.
"It's guidance, generally, to predispose the committee to whether they should consider (an event) favorably or not, and they look at the specifics or the potential outcomes," he said. "And sometimes, for example with the Farmers Market, there's a bias toward starting events. It's kind of hard, and that's not something that's necessarily recognized in the scoring matrix. But we also recognize, at the end of this process, the sub-committee and staff (need to) work on some better criteria that could be more of a predictive approach."
FYI: Swimming tourism in Federal Way
Federal Way receives about $190,000 annually in hotel-motel tax revenues. The money enables the city to support and recruit sports tournaments, festivals and events that generate tourism. In 2012, the U.S. Olympic Diving Trials brought hundreds of visitors and more than $4 million to the local economy. Federal Way paid $100,000 to bid on hosting the trials.
Federal Way hotel managers also laud the swim competitions at the King County Aquatic Center. Out-of-town visitors pack the hotels and commonly ask about good places to eat while they’re in Federal Way.