Gurnee to consider $4 million tax incentive for Great America

The Gurnee village board will consider approving a $4 million tax incentive program for Six Flags Great America next week.

The money would help the park offset the $15 million in capital improvements officials plan to complete in the next seven years. Jack Linehan, the assistant to the village administrator, said Wednesday the money would go toward infrastructure work and security enhancements.

"None of this money is going toward rides," Linehan said.

The village collects a 4 percent amusement tax from theme park admissions. If the incentive plan is approved, the village will cap the park's amusement tax revenue at $2.8 million. That means any tax revenue above that amount will return to Great America.

The village would increase the cap by 2 percent each year of the seven-year agreement or until the village returns a total of $4 million to Great America, whichever comes first.

Mayor Kristina Kovarik said it's a good deal for the village and the theme park.

"The village board has talked about making investments in entertainment and tourism, and this is our first one," Kovarik said.

In a statement Wednesday, Great America spokeswoman Tess Claussen praised the village as a strong partner over the park's 42-year history.

"This incentive program encourages the financial success of the park," Claussen said. "We are excited for the partnership and for the support of the village of Gurnee and look forward to making lasting capital improvements in years to come."

Kovarik said the village used the park's recent ticket sales as a baseline in setting the cap at $2.8 million.

"So they have to sell more tickets to earn tax incentive money," Kovarik said. "(Guests) will eat more food and buy more merchandise; that helps us, too."

According to Gurnee's latest budget, the village collected $2,040,273 in amusement taxes from Six Flags during fiscal year 2017. At the time, the amusement tax was 3 percent, meaning Great America collected about $68 million in admission fees that year.

The village board increased the amusement tax rate to 4 percent in March.

If Great America admission fees total $68 million in fiscal year 2019, the village will collect just over $2.7 million under the new tax rate.

Kovarik said the village and theme park began discussing the incentive program after the village board raised the amusement tax rate.

The plan will be the subject of a special public hearing at 6:40 p.m. Monday before the regularly scheduled board meeting at 7 p.m. Linehan said the plan likely will be up for a vote during the regular board meeting.

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