Aspen council shows support for proposed Wheeler fee changes
August 1, 2012
ASPEN – The Aspen City Council on Tuesday left the ball in the Wheeler Opera House’s court with regard to changing its rental and ticket fee structure for the coming year.
“I would say carry on as recommended,” said Mayor Mick Ireland, referring to a color-coded spreadsheet of suggested rate changes to Wheeler rental rates and Aspen Show Tickets rates. “And let’s just continue to see what we can do to minimize the amount of the subsidy while doing as much as you can for the community.”
Tuesday’s work session between the City Council and opera-house administrators was scheduled after a June 5 meeting left council members asking for more information regarding alternatives for higher rental fees for nonprofit and for-profit groups as well as more information to support the call for extra ticket charges.
Wheeler executive director Gram Slaton provided that information Tuesday – with line items in green a go, yellow items to be considered with caution and red items not feasible – and explained the tenuous position the Wheeler is in when it comes to raising rates.
“It’s a funny business we’re in,” he said. “We’ve got revenue and expenses and then all the stuff we give away.
“The public needs to understand the effects of all of this.”
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Among the likely fee increases, according to the presentation, is an across-the-board boost in rental rates, technical support and equipment. The increases range from 3.1 percent to 100 percent in instances where fees previously were not charged. Aspen Show Tickets also would see some revenue increases, though added fees to ticket purchasers fell in the yellow and red categories.
“You can always try something else next year and then go back if you need to,” said Councilman Derek Johnson, who expressed concern about a lump-sum processing fee versus a per-ticket fee.
Others agree that nothing the Wheeler chooses to do next year would be a permanent change.
“Hats off to you. … We appreciate what you’re trying to do,” Councilman Adam Frisch said to Slaton. “If you want to raise prices, do so, and then tell us why it’s working or not working.”
With that, the council offered its support of city staff and opera-house administrators’ suggestions. Slaton said he would take that information and finalize it into his proposed budget, which will be reviewed during the city’s upcoming budget cycle. The two groups can have further discussion at that time if necessary, he suggested.