Tyler 1st Committee meets, discusses consolidating tourism areas

Published on Wednesday, 17 July 2013 19:30 - Written by By Dayna Worchel dworchel@tylerpaper.com

Making Tyler a destination city for sports tourism and creating a business and technology center were ideas discussed at a Tyler 1st Steering Committee meeting on Wednesday.

The Tyler 1st Comprehensive Plan, formerly known as Tyler 21, was launched in 2007. The plan addresses issues such as downtown revitalization, historic preservation, parks and recreation, transportation and housing and neighborhoods.

The comprehensive plan is reviewed every five years and completely updated every 20 years. The steering committee had a kickoff meeting in January and is working on taking the city’s citizen survey results before city council members in September.

“What do you see as critical components of every public/private partnership?” facilitator Brian Brandt asked the crowd.

“Money, strong vision, communication and trust,” were some of the answers steering committee members gave.

The next question to the committee: “If a rising tide lifts all boats, is there anything that can raise the capacity of the whole community?” Brandt asked.

“Higher tax rates, technology infrastructure, a prepared labor force, and collaboration,” members answered. The Tyler tax rate has decreased by 60 percent since the 1990s and is one of the lowest in the state, Assistant City Manager Susan Guthrie told the steering committee members.

The Steering Committee broke up into discussion groups, which focused on different aspects of possible public/private partnerships to bring more business into the city and to help diversify the economy. The areas of focus included tourism, retirement, graduate education and energy.

“We need for the city to take on a research mindset… to become the research behind certain products that can be sold,” Dr. Rodney Mabry, president of The University of Texas at Tyler, said as he gave his group’s report. He said he envisioned Tyler having a Research Park Triangle similar to the one in Durham, N.C.

“It’s about a social interaction — we need the infrastructure to attract people who are innovative,” Mabry said, speaking about the need for walking and biking trail connectivity in the city and a proposed high speed rail system between Dallas and Shreveport.

The group focusing on Tyler tourism talked about the need to consolidate tourism into one area. “Tyler has some good options, but they are spread out,” Andy Bergfeld said.

Bergfeld talked about other communities he and his family had visited when taking his children to play in basketball, baseball and swimming tournaments. He said there were large venues with multiple basketball courts, and some had an indoor Olympic-sized pool.

Price Arredondo talked about how soccer draws the participation of more than 10,000 youth in Tyler.

“We could bring more soccer tournaments into the area,” he said.

Ideas from the other groups included repurposing the amphitheater in Bergfeld Park to bring in more musical acts and making downtown Tyler a hub for arts and entertainment by partnering with educational institutions.

To attract retirees, the city should continue to grow its medical facilities and arrange transportation from assisted living centers to activities for those seniors who don’t drive. There should be an activities clearinghouse of all activities going on in the city and a volunteer clearing house for seniors also, steering committee members said.