A bold new direction for Brooklyn Center

The new Brooklyn Center logo and tagline. (Image provided by the city of Brooklyn Center)

The Brooklyn Center City Council is poised to step away from the Minneapolis Northwest Tourism Board after a discussion at its May 24 work session.

The move would follow steps taken by Maple Grove and Brooklyn Park to leave the board in the post-pandemic era.

While it is not clear if the council would support a strictly Brooklyn Center-based model for a new tourism board or if another joint venture would be considered moving forward, the council came to a consensus that the city ought to give notice of its plans to leave the consortium.

“I think pulling out is necessary,” Councilmember Marquita Butler said.

The council is planning to revisit the issue at a future date after meeting with the tourism board.

In its current form, the board promotes travel and tourism in three cities: Maple Grove, Brooklyn Park, and Brooklyn Center. The board is funded through lodging taxes levied on hotel room rentals in each city.

The board jointly markets the three cities’ event venues and lodging to travelers planning to come to the Minneapolis area, particularly out-of-state tourists.

By contract, Maple Grove was required to provide one year’s notice before leaving the board. Maple Grove informed the board in January that the city would spend the year evaluating its future participation in the organization.

It is unclear if the city will stay in the consortium, but the prospect of Maple Grove leaving has Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center reconsidering their positions in the organization.

More than half of the total hotel rooms in the consortium are in Maple Grove. As a result, the city contributes more than half of the lodging tax revenue to the approximately $1.8 million pre-pandemic board budget.

As a result, if Maple Grove pulls out of the consortium, the organization’s budget will significantly shrink.

With Maple Grove’s exit, Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park are essentially left with four options: discontinue collecting lodging taxes, create a new joint Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park board, start a city-specific board, or seek special legislation to use lodging tax revenues to fund other endeavors.

Brooklyn Park is planning to give notice to the board that it will leave the organization.

State law restricts the spending of lodging tax revenue. Cities can levy a 3% tax on lodging if 95% of revenue is used for tourism promotion.

Maple Grove sought special legislation to use half of its lodging taxes to renovate its community center, although that legislation appears unlikely to pass during this legislative session.

Brooklyn Center has existing special legislation in place doubling its lodging tax from 3% to 6%. Half of the revenue goes to fund the tourism board, while the other half goes to the city’s general fund.

Community Development Director Meg Beekman said it would likely be challenging to lobby for additional special legislation.

“At worst, we could risk threatening the existing funding that we have,” she said.

“I think it’s clear that we need to withdraw from this agreement at this time,” Mayor Mike Elliott said. “I’m ready to move on.”

He said he was not interested in starting a new joint board with Brooklyn Park, but would consider funding youth or senior programming if the revenue was made more flexible.

Councilmember Dan Ryan agreed that the city should consider leaving the board. He said he would be cautious about seeking new special legislation when the city already benefits from existing legislation.

“Shouldn’t we look at an organization that would get us the most bang for the buck?” he said.

Councilmember Kris Lawrence-Anderson said she would support her colleagues in their decision, but that she does not hold strong opinions on the matter.

“I think we need to do what is best for Brooklyn Center,” she said.

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