Tompkins Weekly

Tompkins County hotel taxes reinvested in tourism attractions



Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce Foundation Inc. was awarded $9,500 to
fund a feasibility study about potentially making Taughannock Overlook Visitor
Center operational year-round. Photo by Rob Montana

A wide-ranging list of recipients were awarded Tompkins County tourism grants at a meeting of the Tompkins County Legislature Oct. 17, including a children’s learning center, a local live entertainment venue, and the area’s biggest farmers market.

Grant awards totaling $291,200 were made to six organizations through the Tourism Capital grant program, which is administered in partnership with Ithaca Area Economic Development.

Tourism Capital grants support major investments in visitor generating projects. Two of the approved projects are for feasibility studies, and four are for capital investments.

“These grants are an investment in our community’s most valuable assets: our culture, our history, and our natural beauty,” said Brett Bossard, chair of the County’s Strategic Tourism Planning Board, in a press release issued by Tompkins County Oct. 18. “We are excited to support these organizations and their efforts to promote Tompkins County as a vibrant and welcoming destination, and we look forward to seeing the positive impact that the grants will have on the entire county.”

Friends of the Ithaca Farmers Market received $25,000 for improvements to the market site and access improvements to the venue.  

Cycle-CNY was awarded $16,000 for a study on the formation of Ithaca Mountain Bike Skills Park.

Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce Foundation Inc. was given $9,500 to fund a feasibility study about potentially making Taughannock Overlook Visitor Center operational year-round.

Seventh Art Corporation, the organization that oversees Cinemapolis, was awarded $100,000 for a down payment on the purchase of the movie theater, which they are currently renting.

State Theatre of Ithaca, Inc., was awarded $70,000 for a redesign and equipment upgrade for the concessions area.

Sciencenter, located on 1st Street in Ithaca, received $70,000 to help pay for their Science Park Reimagined: Capital Project.

Children run through Science Park, part of Sciencenter in Ithaca. Photo by Photo by Allison Usavage

“The Sciencenter is excited to embark on the redesign of our beloved Science Park,” Adrienne Testa, Sciencenter Director of Exhibits & Facilities, stated Oct. 20.

The original Science Park was built in 1993 with hundreds of hours of effort by volunteers, according to Testa.

 “Today, people throughout Ithaca proudly say, ‘I built the Science Park,’ she said. “With this redesign, we aim to have a new generation of families feel as though they built the Science Park. At this stage, we are collecting ideas and inspiration from our young visitors through interviews and brainstorming sessions with our exhibits team. This Tompkins County Tourism Program grant is the first step in reimagining the Science Park.”

 In the drawings collected by the Sciencenter, children detailed items they wanted to see in the redesign, including a tunnel, lake-view towers, and a twisty side that uses a pulley system to raise children to the top of the structure.

 “Make the entire playground climbable,” one child wrote on their drawing.

 The Sciencenter initially requested $87,500 to renovate the outdoor Science Park and prepare the space for the installation of new exhibits in summer 2025.

The Science Park is one of the museum’s most popular and visible exhibit areas – and one of our oldest, according to its application for funding.

 The multi-level “science playground” has been available to the public for more than 30 years. Children play on exhibits like the giant lever and Kevlar suspension bridge or explore the numerous ramps and slides.

Approximately 75,000 visitors explore the Science Park during a typical outdoor season. Since spring 2020, the Science Park and other outdoor spaces have only become more important to visitors, according to the application.

The Sciencenter has also already secured funding to support the installation of new exhibits, but the application for funding states that “funder restrictions prevent us from using those resources to pay for necessary construction costs. This request will support that critical need.”

Tompkins County Tourism Program grants are funded from the Hotel Room Occupancy Tax. Guidance to the County Legislature on room tax allocations is provided by the Strategic Tourism Planning Board. These grants support local organizations working to promote the county as a visitor destination. They fund a wide range of events and initiatives, including festivals, cultural programs, and outdoor recreation projects.

Visitors to the county spend money on hotels, restaurants, shops and other businesses, and the tourism industry supports thousands of jobs in the county and generates millions of dollars in tax revenue each year, according to the recent County press release.

Upcoming Grant Cycles Future funding rounds will be announced following the adoption of the 2024 Tompkins County budget.

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