Friday, June 02, 2017
DaVinci Aquarium Pitched to NorCo Council
This is a $130 million project. Northampton County has already spent $50,000 in hotel tax grant money for a feasibility study, but that's nothing compared to the $30 million pledge made by Easton. It has already agreed to purchase Days Inn, with closing scheduled in December.
According to WNEP-16, Ripley's Aquarium was in talks with Tobyhanna officials last year to build its fourth aquarium near the Kalahari resort. Erickson never disclosed this possibility to Council in previous meetings, which members like Hayden Phillips and Bob Werner.
Now she claims that she conducted a study of markets that have aquariums in close proximity. "In all instances, the multiple aquariums coexisted, and they were very successful," she told Council. She said they were "complementary," and offered "distinct experiences." She cited San Francisco as one example. She indicated that the experience in Easton would be completely different than a Ripley aquarium.
She did say that the DaVinci aquarium would have sharks.
She also claimed that a DaVinci Science Center in Easton would have a direct economic benefit to the county in the form of increased hotel and real estate taxes. She projects hotel tax revenue will increase $3.9 million over 10 years, and real estate tax revenue would go up $53 million over that same period.
Given that Northampton County's total real estate tax revenue is only about $100 million per year, there's something fishy about this projection.
Erickson also claims there will be 200 permanent jobs at the site, as well as 650 union jobs during construction.
Ron Littlefield, former Mayor of Chattanooga, addressed Council by phone. He said his City was once designated by no less a person than Walter Cronkite as the dirtiest city in America. The aquarium is one of the reasons the City turned around. He was unable to tell Council President John Cusick how much money Chattanooga spent on the project. He did say that hotel taxes paid for the project.
Easto Mayor Sal Panto,who not long ago was waving pom poms for a High School Hall of Fame in downtown Easton, is now cheering for the DaVinci Center. He claimed to be "very, very pleased by what we've seen over the last six months. A lot of studies are being done. It is amazing. A lot of big, large corporations are really interested in this project."
Really? Then why has only $425,000 been raised?
Right after talking about the City's A plus bond rating, Panto told Matt Dietz that the City has already spent $6 million on this project,and intends to borrow $24 million through a bond issue,paid by the amusement tax on 400,000 visitors per year and income taxes paid by 200 permanent workers. .
Peg Ferraro called the project "exciting." She said, "DaVinci has such a history. They have a track record."
Blogger's Note: My report on this presentation is based on viewing the video.