ARC price tag over budget by $1 million |

ARC price tag over budget by $1 million

Janet Urquhart

The final price tag for the Aspen Recreation Center is $1 million more than what the city budgeted for the project, but the city may recoup some of the cost overrun from the architectural firm that designed the ARC.

Meanwhile, the City Council is being asked to approve a supplemental appropriation of $999,996 to cover the additional expenditures, which would bring the total cost of the ARC to $20.26 million.

Excess property tax revenues, which voters authorized the city to keep and apply to the ARC, and funds raised for the ice rink at the center, are sufficient to cover the added expenses, according to the city finance office.

Some of the added costs are the result of expenditures OK’d by the council while the project was under construction, and some was due to delays in finishing the ice rink when fund-raising efforts for it faltered, said Ed Sadler, assistant city manager.

“We kept stopping and starting on the ice rink,” he said.

The city has also blamed deficiencies in the architectural plans for the ARC for cost overruns of more than $900,000. The city sued Durrant Architects Inc. in March and has since submitted its claims to the firm for review, Sadler said.

The total cost of the ARC includes not only construction of the 82,460-square-foot building, but also the new pedestrian bridge connecting the facility to the Aspen schools campus across Maroon Creek Road, exterior lighting and the paving of the parking lot, which has yet to be done.

The ARC, located at Iselin Park, opened April 1, though the ice rink wasn’t ready for use until mid-April.

The facility needs to generate $5,000 a day, or $150,000 a month, in revenue to meet its 2003 operating budget and did so during the month of April, according to Tim Anderson, city recreation director.

The city anticipates subsidizing the operation by $300,000 a year.

Anderson also expects to sell 2,000 passes to the ARC this year, and is a third of the way there already.

“In the first month, we’ve sold about one-third of the total passes we wanted to sell,” he said.

While the ARC hit its revenue projections for April, much of it was through the sale of passes that are valid for up to a year, Anderson noted.

Pass sales, daily-admission fees, charges for programs, meeting room rentals and charges to groups that book ice and pool time are all part of the ARC revenue stream.

Anderson’s projections also call for at least 550 people per day using the ARC, but that’s an average over the course of a year. Slow periods must be offset by busy times, when far more than 550 people a day are expected to come through the door, he said.

So far, about 150 people a day are using the ARC’s facilities.

“We’re in the off-season and the tourist or guest was included in that [550] number, so we’re not getting that now,” Anderson said.

Last weekend, the ARC hosted a free Basalt Day, giving Basalt residents an opportunity to come up and use the ARC’s pools, ice rink, climbing wall and youth center at no charge.

Carbondale residents are being offered a free day at the ARC this Saturday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.; May 17 will be a free day for Glenwood Springs residents. (Participants must show proof of residency.)

Full-time city of Aspen employees have been offered a free annual Fun Pass, good for unlimited use of the ARC as well as some other city recreation programs, in exchange for eight hours of volunteer work at the ARC during special events. Those with families were offered a family pass. So far, 118 city workers have taken advantage of the offer, Anderson said.

The pass is part of the city’s benefits package. Employees were also offered free punch passes to the old James E. Moore Pool, which the ARC replaced, and the Aspen Ice Garden, Sadler said.

Anderson said he has not calculated the total value of the free passes to city workers. Some are individual passes, and some are the more expensive family passes, and some went to city residents, who can buy a pass for less than a downvalley resident.

“As far as revenue lost, you’re really not losing much unless they use the pass a lot,” Sadler said. “Otherwise, they’d have bought a punch pass and used it five or six times.”

For Aspen residents, an annual Fun Pass costs $309 for youths, ages 2-17; $380 for adults and $832 for a family of up to four people (plus $100 for each additional member).

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