The Aspen Recreation Center dramatically increased its fees and changed the residency requirement for its daily admission fee to generate revenue and reduce the city’s facility grant.
With current COVID-19 conditions, the facility’s cost recovery models are no longer what they were before the pandemic, putting pressure on revenues and expenses, according to Cory Vander Veen, director of city recreation.
Falling revenues and rising costs forced the city to subsidize the ARC to more than 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 expected to be 68%, but Vander Veen estimates it will likely be 57%.
During budget discussions last fall, the ARC Advisory Committee and Aspen City Council developed a plan for a “multi-year recovery toward grant goals.”
With COVID-19 still having a huge impact on recreation service, ARC needs to be flexible in how services are delivered to users and how appropriate fees are required to reflect those services, Vander Veen said. .
Since January 1, memberships and daily fees have increased by 9% this year. Other programs saw smaller increases, such as day camps and swimming lessons which increased by 3%.
The CRA also requires proof of residency for those wishing to qualify for the $12 daily admission fee, which is available to those residing within the urban growth limits, including the business center of the airport.
The local daily rate will be given to users with a valid driver’s license and proof of residency.
Those unable to provide proof must pay $25.50 for daily admission.
The change isn’t just about getting people to buy monthly or annual subscriptions; it is also to shore up missing income for those who in the past said they were Aspen residents but were not.
Now that there is a policy requiring residency, this daily guest admission rate will be captured.
But the hope is “we make sure we serve our people and have fair fees,” Vander Veen said. “We have very affordable passes and we want to bring them to monthly passes because our goal is to get people in and more people using the facility frequently.”
In comparison to other recreation facilities in the valley, the ARC falls in the middle.
This year, an annual adult recreational membership is $599, or $50 per month. Last year, the annual membership was $552.
The Snowmass Recreation Center costs $65 per month, after the initial payment of $125 due when registering for an adult monthly membership.
Annual membership at the Glenwood Recreation Center is $535, or $45 per month.
After evaluation of the programs offered by the ARC, the sailing program will end this year, due to declining enrollment, operating costs and resources, according to Vander Veen.
“We evaluate each program to make sure it hits the right grant,” he said.
The sailing program operates at Ruedi Reservoir, and the recreation department will work with the Aspen Yacht Club to help them deliver the program in the future.
Vander Veen said the department’s primary goal is to increase fees through 2023 to return to the 50% subsidy by the city.
Increases for next year have not been determined and will be expected later this year.
The city’s subsidy to the ARC this year should be 60%; 54% for 2023; 51% for 2024 and 50% in 2025, with overall revenues budgeted at over $5 million for each of those years.