City of Steamboat rethinking proposed fee increases at Howelsen Ice Arena | SteamboatToday.com

City of Steamboat rethinking proposed fee increases at Howelsen Ice Arena

— The city of Steamboat Springs is rethinking some proposed fee increases at Howelsen Ice Arena after several users of the facility expressed concern that the new rates would deter people from hitting the ice.

Kim Haggarty told the Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday night that when she started a figure skating club here 21 years ago, it had 100 kids.

Today, she said, it has 12.

"The reason we’re down to 12 is ice time goes down year after year," she said. "People have to pick and choose. We have a lot of competition out there, and as rates (at the ice arena) increase and increase and increase, more people disappear every year."

She said the potential hourly rate increases of $10 at the arena could increase the cost to her club by as much as $4,000 to $5,000 per year.

Haggarty was joined at the meeting by several ice skaters and hockey players who also opposed any fee increases.

The city initially was thinking about increasing the hourly rate for individual skaters by $5 and by $10 per hour for for-profit groups, camps and local nonprofits.

The price for players in adult leagues would have been raised from $250 to $275 per season.

City Manager Deb Hinsvark said that after hearing from families and skaters opposed to the fee increases in recent days, the city has decided to look again at the fees and the plans to reduce costs.

She added that a consultant is working with the city to identify ways to increase revenue at the amenity while reducing costs, and the fees were set based on a cost comparison with arenas in other communities.

Like other city-owned amenities including Howelsen Hill and the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena, the ice arena requires a substantial subsidy from the city each year to operate.

That subsidy is projected to total about $160,000 in the 2014 budget, Finance Director Kim Weber said.

The subsidy was $164,120 in 2011 and $193,185 in 2012. It was budgeted at $101,583 for this year.

It fluctuates depending on maintenance and operating costs.

Weber said the ice rink has reduced its subsidy proportionally more than any of the other city facilities.

Nikki Knoebel, who serves on the city’s Ice Rink Advisory Committee, said Wednesday that she was torn about the proposed rate increases. She said she would support them if they were needed to keep the ice rink open, but she said she’s worried they could hurt existing programs and be accompanied by some reductions in service.

"I hope that we go back and we really take a look at people’s concerns, and we do see if this is the right time to make a jump in the rates," Knoebel said.

The fee increases would be part of a bigger plan to make the ice arena and the city’s other amenities more cost efficient.

In recent months, the city has revamped its marketing efforts for its amenities in an effort to draw more people to them.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com