So … we built it. Will they come? | AspenTimes.com

So … we built it. Will they come?

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Aspen is looking for an average of 600 people per day to make use of its new Aspen Recreation Center in order to break even, but no one seems sure exactly what to expect when the facility opens its doors.

The city anticipates spending $300,000 annually to subsidize the facility, with the individuals and groups that pay to use the complex making up the rest of next year?s $1.8 million operating budget.

?How can we possibly know what?s going to happen? We?re crossing our fingers and hoping for the best,? said Councilman Tom McCabe as the City Council reviewed the ARC?s budget on Tuesday.

Computer software will allow the city to track daily use and revenues so changes can be made quickly, if need be, once the facility is running, according to Tim Anderson, recreation director. Cutting back one hour of operation at the facility, for example, would save $125,000 over the course of a year, he estimated.

?Two months after we open, we?ll be back here,? Councilman Tim Semrau predicted. ?It?s highly speculative.?

Based on the experience of other mountain resorts that have opened new recreation facilities, Anderson said he?s confident the ARC will see 600 users a day on average, including tourists, local and valley residents, students and the various recreational groups that will make use of the ARC?s two swimming pools and ice rink. The facility will also offer a climbing wall and house the new Aspen Youth Center.

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The city?s old Moore Pool saw an average use of 125 people per day, he said.

The ARC, now under construction at Iselin Park, is expected to open to the public next March or so, though it will be operating for a month in advance to make sure all the systems work and to train staffers, Anderson said. That month of operating the facility before it is open for use will result in a projected budget shortfall of $37,369 next year, he said.

In a full year, Anderson is predicting the facility will break even (with the $300,000 subsidy) and have a little extra cash on hand to spare. For next year, to make up for the projected shortfall and give the ARC budget a cushion, Anderson suggested the city consider shutting down the Aspen Ice Garden from April through September and assign its staff to run the new ice rink at the ARC.

The city doesn?t really need two sheets of ice until the winter season, which begins in October, said George Pucak, Ice Garden manager.

Some council members, however, weren?t anxious to put the Ice Garden on ice next summer after spending about $1 million to upgrade that facility.

The Ice Garden could remain open in the summer with a dry floor, for use by in-line skaters for example, for about $60,000, Anderson said. The council agreed to keep that option in mind as they review the overall city budget for 2003 in the coming weeks.

For groups and leagues renting ice time, the price will go up from an average of $115 per hour to an average of $140 per hour next year at both the Ice Garden and the ARC, Pucak noted.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com]