Impacted by the pandemic, Aspen Recreation Center increases fees

Proof of residency required for Aspen residents to get daily rate; guests will pay more than double so monthly, annual passes encouraged

The Aspen Recreation Center has raised its fees significantly and changed the residency requirement for its daily admission rate to make up revenue and reduce the city’s subsidy to the facility.

With current COVID-19 conditions, the facility’s cost recovery models are not what they used to be pre-pandemic, putting a strain on revenues and expenses, according to Cory Vander Veen, the city’s recreation director.

Less revenue coming in and increased costs have resulted in the city having to subsidize the ARC at more than the goal of 50% of its budget.

In 2020, the city’s general fund covered nearly $2.9 million of the ARC’s $3.8 million budget, or 75%.

In 2021, that subsidy rate was projected to be 68%, but Vander Veen estimates it will likely be 57%.

During budget talks last fall, the ARC Advisory Committee and Aspen City Council developed a “multi-year recovery back to subsidy goals” plan.

With COVID-19 still very much impacting the recreation department, the ARC has to be flexible on how services are provided to the users and how appropriate fees are needed to reflect those services, Vander Veen said.

Starting Jan. 1, memberships and daily fees went up as much as 9% increase for this year. Other programs saw smaller increases, such as day camp and swim lessons going up 3%.

The ARC also is requiring proof of residency for people who want the daily admission rate of $12, which is offered to those who reside within the urban growth boundary, including the Airport Business Center.

The daily locals rate will be given to users with a valid driver’s license showing proof of residency.

Those who are unable to provide proof are subject to pay $25.50 for daily admission.

The change is not only to drive people to buy monthly or annual memberships; it’s also to shore up missing revenue from those who in the past said they were Aspen residents but were not.

Now that there is a policy requiring residency, that guest daily admission rate will be captured.

But the hope is “we are making sure we are serving our population and have equitable fees,” Vander Veen said. “We have very affordable passes, and we want to drive them to monthly passes, because our goal is to get people in the door and more people frequently using the facility.”

In comparison to other recreation facilities in the valley, the ARC falls in the middle.

This year, an adult annual recreation membership is $599, which is $50 per month. Last year, the annual membership was $552.

The Snowmass Recreation Center is $65 per month, after the initial payment of $125 due at registration for an adult monthly membership.

Glenwood recreation center’s annual membership is $535, which is $45 per month.

Upon evaluation of the programs that the ARC offers, the sailing program will be sunset this year, based on declining enrollment, operating costs and resources, according to Vander Veen.

“We evaluate every program to make sure it hits the right subsidy,” he said.

The sailing program operates at Ruedi Reservoir, and the recreation department will work with the Aspen Yacht Club to help them offer the program in the future.

Vander Veen said the department’s main goal is to increase fees through 2023 to return to the 50% subsidy by the city.

Increases for next year haven’t been determined and will be forecast later this year.

The subsidy by the city to the ARC this year is projected to be 60%; 54% for 2023; 51% for 2024 and 50% in 2025, with the overall revenue budgeted at over $5 million in each of those years.


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