ARC users undaunted by fee hikes | AspenTimes.com

ARC users undaunted by fee hikes

Abigail Eagye

Haley Park, 7, laces up her skates before hitting the ice at the Aspen Recreation Center. Park's father, Stan, believes fee increases at the ARC are par for the course, but he hopes the facility won't become too pricey for all to enjoy. (Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times)

Aspen, CO ColoradoASPEN Fees at the Aspen Recreation Center are up roughly 4 percent this year, a slightly larger increase than in past years.The standard annual fee increase is about 3 percent. Aspen Recreation Center Director Tim Anderson said the change is primarily due to increased energy costs.The fee increase translates to between $1 and $6 for monthly passes and 20-visit punch passes. Six-month and annual passes are $10-20 more for valley residents, while family passes are roughly $20 more for six months and $40 more for a year.Daily admission prices remain the same for valley residents; guest passes increased by $1. The ARC also has introduced a 10-visit pass to accommodate out-of-town visitors.The ARC saw more tourist visits last year than ever before. “We’re seeing people include this in their plans when they come to Aspen,” Anderson said.

The total number of visits in 2006 also hit a peak at roughly 250,000, he said.A number of out-of-towners were at the ARC Friday, including several families seeking refuge from the snow at the ice rink and pool. Most visitors were unaware of the price increase, and were simply impressed with the ARC.”It’s really a phenomenal facility,” said Atlanta resident Laura Foster. “We don’t have anything that compares to what they have here.”Foster and her children, ages 4, 7 and 9, were at the pool Friday. She said the fees didn’t affect them at all, as use of the ARC is included with their stay at the Ritz.Locals didn’t seem any more aware of the fee increases, although Basalt resident Mary McClure hasn’t had to renew her family’s punch passes yet. She called the increases “completely acceptable. I think it’s such an amazing facility.”

Choosing what type of pass to get for the ARC can be a challenge, though. McClure said she guesstimates how many times different family members will use facility when deciding.”You try to figure out what’s the most economic use with the amount of times you go,” she said. “It’s like going to Vegas.”McClure added that her out-of-town guests also are impressed with the ARC.”They’re blown away that this is our environment,” she said. “We’re lucky to have it.”Aspenite Stan Park and his family also love the ARC, and he, too, found the fee increases par for the course. The father of three brought daughter Haley, 7, to the ice rink Friday. Although he understands the fee increases, he said it can be a burden on a family with a lot of children, especially when they have to pay a babysitter on top of the ARC fees.

“I would just say that you want to make it reachable for all levels of income, and that’s the challenge when it starts to get too pricey,” he said. “You sure want it to be used – and it certainly is being used.”One improvement Park would like to see is the option of paying for one venue at a time. Currently, admission to the ARC is all-inclusive, providing access to the rock climbing tower, the ice rink and rentals, the pool, and the fitness room as well as most fitness classes. (Admission also includes access to fitness classes and the climbing wall at the Red Brick Recreation Center, as well as access to tennis courts in the summer.) There is no way to pay a lesser amount to use just one amenity.In addition to fee increases for ARC passes, the cost of adult and youth recreation programs, such as softball, baseball, soccer and flag football has gone up. The increase is around $20-30 for adult programs and a few dollars for youth programs. Swimming lessons are actually less expensive, but some class sizes will increase; private lessons are still available.A complete list of the new fees is online at http://www.aspenrecreation.com under “recreation centers.”Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is abby@aspentimes.com

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