Whistler’s Parks and Recreation Department is considering a significant raise in user fees at the Meadow Park Sports Centre (MPSC) that would increase admission fees for residents and visitors, while lowering the cost of passes for locals.
In a presentation to Council Tuesday (Aug. 21), three potential pricing options were put forth to help the department recoup some of the revenue it has lost due to increasing competition from the local commercial fitness and ski sectors, costs associated with the 2010 Olympic Games and the global economic downturn.
The department also wants to recover approximately $137,000 it expects to lose given that the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District and the Village of Pemberton have refused to provide an annual contribution that would offset their residents’ subsidized usage of the MPSC.
Coun. John Grills said the proposed price hikes “seemed complicated” and that with the centre already losing clients and saving on energy costs due to several retrofitted upgrades, there’s no reason for such a drastic price increase to occur.
“If we can avoid increases in fees, certainly, I’m in favour of that,” added Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.
The first proposed fee structure change would increase admission fees by 20 per cent for Whistler residents and visitors, while providing a 10 per cent discount to residents on all passes.
Parks and Recreation estimates that this option would increase revenue by $75,000 per year, assuming sales volumes stay constant with 2011 and 90 per cent of the passes are purchased by locals.
The second option would bring in an estimated $135,000 for the municipality, by raising admission rates 30 per cent for residents and non-residents, while lowering the price of passes by 20 per cent for Whistlerites.
The fee structure for the final option, which the department prefers, is identical to the second, except that the price of six month and year-long passes could be lowered, along with passes bought in bulk.
This change would account for a $125,000 increase in incremental revenue for the centre.
“In the longer term, this option should address our regional funding dilemma and better align the drop-in fee with the private sector while providing lower pass prices,” stated the staff report.
Under this option, “even the non-residents get rewarded for buying our longer term passes” said Manager of Recreations Roger Weetman. “Our residents would realize lower rates than they are now,” he added.
The MPSC is also looking at other options to bring in more revenue, including raising its yearly facility fees three per cent every year to keep up with rising energy costs. Currently, the centre raises fees two per cent annually.
A 25 per cent surcharge for all non-residents is also being considered, for “most, if not all recreation programs,” said Weetman.
Whistler locals may have to begin proving their residency on a yearly basis, Weetman said, to prevent people who have moved out of town from enjoying resident pricing rates.
While the department plans to bring the proposed fee structure changes in front of the newly-formed Recreation and Leisure Advisory Committee, they are committed to maintaining affordability for residents, said Weetman.
The MPSC will continue providing $2 admission fees on Fridays from 6 to 10 p.m. as well as free yearly passes for Whistler Grade 5 and 10 students.
Weetman said staff could potentially lower rates for single parent families and is considering providing time-specific rates to a wider demographic, to reflect recent usage patterns at the facility.