Whistlerites’ wallets will stay a little fatter in 2013, after council supported staff’s recommendation Tuesday (March 19) to retain last year’s admission and pass rates for local residents at Meadow Park Sports Centre.
Recreation staff prepared five different admission and pass fee options for consideration this year, and arrived at the current fee schedule after considerable community input.
“The primary goal for the fees and charges schedule is really to increase revenue by actually driving more traffic (to Meadow Park), while keeping our rates the same and adding some more affordable products and opportunities into the mix,” said the Resort
Municipality of Whistler’s (RMOW) manager of recreation services Roger Weetman.
Recreation staff recommended the addition of a midday and mid-week rate from Monday to Friday between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., based on a recent Meadow Park user survey with over half of respondents supporting the new option.
“At a time when the facility is really not used that much, let’s offer a 25 per cent discount,” said Weetman.
The proposed midday and mid-week rates are identical to the centre’s current early bird and late owl pricing options; $6 for a one-time drop-in, a 10-time rate of $51, a $54 monthly rate and $132 three-month pass.
Staff also recommended maintaining the current family rate structure in 2013 to benefit larger families, and added a combination discount option on pass products, designed in part to benefit single parent households looking for a long-term passes.
Meadow Park’s popular Friday Toonie Nights, when admission is only $2 between 6 and 10 p.m., could be replaced by a 50 per cent off night. Staff also recommended adding a Tuesday Toonie Night.
“We’ve actually found our Friday nights to be too much of a success to the point where it’s starting to affect the actual recreational experience, so we’re hoping to divide the load,” Weetman said.
Building on a 2010 pilot project, staff also asked council to provide Whistler Grade 5 and 10 students with free yearly passes on a permanent basis to help ensure local youngsters are maintaining an active lifestyle.
Visitors to the resort can’t count on the same savings at Meadow Park this year, with staff recommending up to a 33 per cent surcharge on programs for non-residents starting this fall.
Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden was confident the proposed hike wouldn’t deter non-residents from using the sports centre.
“That is not an uncommon thing to see when you go to just about any place; there’s a fee for residents and a different fee for out-of-towners, and it doesn’t necessarily prevent the out-of-towners from using the facility,” she said Tuesday.
The 2013 fee and rate structure was based on reduced operating costs at Meadow Park in the past year related to savings achieved through “the geothermal and solar energy retrofit done (at the facility) approximately two years ago; we’re realizing $120,000 a year in savings,” according to Weetman.
Another factor RMOW staff took into account this year is the upcoming repeal of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). Meadow Park currently remits 12 per cent of all pass sales to senior levels of government, but after April 1 only 5 per cent of these sales will be remitted through federal Goods and Services Tax (GST).
“We’re looking to leverage the HST change that’s happening on April 1,” said Weetman. “We can benefit from a seven per cent increase if we keep our fees the same to the public.”
RMOW staff benefited from extensive community consultation throughout the fee structuring process, with 496 respondents giving input on everything from programs, facilities, rates and hours of operation through a survey last month.
Council gave first, second and third readings to the Parks and Recreation Fees and Charges amendment bylaw Tuesday. If approved, the fee structure will apply to 2013 and 2014.