Travis County Commissioners delayed a vote Tuesday that could impact two annual events long held at the Travis County Exposition Center.
Organizers with the Republic of Texas Bike Rally, or ROT Rally, and the Heat Wave Car Show said they will be unable to host their 24th and 30th annual events, respectively, if the commissioners approve a contract with Travis Central Appraisal District, or TCAD, to rent the banquet hall facility at the Exposition Center from May 13-Aug. 16, 2019 for appraisal contest hearings.
The dates conflict with the ROT Rally, proposed to be held June 13-16 and the Heat Wave Car Show, proposed for the July 26-28 weekend.
Organizers said Tuesday that their attempts to renew their contracts for 2019 were not handled responsively by county staff.
“We have been dealing with the county to get our contract renewed,” said Jerry Bragg, president and producer of ROT Rally. “I’ve been handed off and handed off and handed off, promised meetings that have been cancelled or not set up.”
However, County Judge Sarah Eckhardt and staff with the Exposition Center disagreed.
“We have ample email documentation of facilities management department attempting to reach out to the ROT Rally with the proposed terms,” Eckhardt said. “It is my opinion as the Travis County Judge that private, for-profit entities have a level playing field with regard to the utilization of the heavily government subsided Exposition Center.”
Both events had multiyear contracts that expired this year, said Randle Jackson, division manager at the Exposition Center. Organizers were not willing to pay new, higher rates approved by the commissioners in 2015, he said. Meanwhile, TCAD has signed a contract and is willing to pay $150,420 to rent the space, according to county documents.
“The idea that this Commissioners Court would wrap itself in knots to provide a special deal for private, for profit events at our Exposition Center—I don’t see any reason why we should [discuss this],” Eckhardt said. “They have been given an offer by our very, very capable staff and have not responded.”
Given that ROT Rally and Heat Wave have not been able to meet the terms of the license agreement, the Exposition Center wants to move forward with TCAD’s contract, Jackson said.
“It’s a classic miscommunication,” Bragg said. “I categorically deny that we have not been responsive. We’re willing to iron out some kind of agreement. We understand there are concerns, and there may be some way around it, but until we get everyone in a room, we will never come to a conclusion.”
The vote has been delayed until Oct. 2.