Casper Council Talks Cost Savings at the Ice Arena
On Tuesday, the Casper city council talked about what the city can do to address the amount it spends on the ice arena and where it can save money.
Zulima Lopez, parks, recreation, and facilities director with the city, said they have a goal of a cost recovery rate of 65%, meaning the city would spend less on the subsidy, but going back to at least the 2018 fiscal year, the city has only reached 62%.
Lopez said that they could achieve that goal by increasing sales of concessions and merchandise by 5%, a 7% increase in various rental rates, and a 2% increase in membership and ticket sales.
If they aren't able to increase sales, they could increase various rates by 50% and other tickets by between $3, for ice rentals from April to September, and $50 for the adult recreation hockey league, and Lopez floated the idea of alcohol sales as well.
The council also talked about if they could afford to add another ice sheet to the arena, which would increase revenues but according to a study in July, would cost around $11.57 million.
Vice-mayor Bruce Knell said that because of how much the city is spending on things like roads, it is difficult for the council to afford something like another sheet of ice.
"This is a lot of money. Is it needed? Of course, it is. One of my best friend's kids is on one of your teams," Knell said. "He loves his hockey time. But we also have a very realistic job to do on this council when we're looking at a 59 grade on our streets, and we're dumping $21 million over the next four years into our streets, and we're not even increasing that grade off of 59...and so between everything that we have going on in the city, I don't know. I think honestly if you came to us and said, 'we're bringing $10 million to the table,' I don't know if we're in a position to come up with a million and a half to put this ice together. Honestly, I'm just trying to be transparent with you, that's where we're at. The can has been kicked down the road so much by previous councils and things have been left undone and I'm not speaking for the entire council, but I don't know how this could even be possible.
Mayor Ray Pacheco said that it would be good to get a second sheet of ice, but he also doesn't think the city has enough money to fund it.
"I've been on council eight years, and I've been through this multiple times, and every time we've come up, I want to see this done. I understand where we're at," Pacheco said. "Six in the morning to 11 o'clock is not ok. In any community that we're doing that. And so I'm proposing that we either cut it loose and say it isn't going to happen, because Pat's right, it's not going to happen in 10 years, it's just not gonna happen. So we either look at that and make the proposal to say say 'Carter, is this even possible,' and give him time to come back to the council and say, 'hey, I can find x amount of dollars if we do this for this project,' and being able to do that. So we're not doing this every year and this group is coming back and saying, we need a second sheet."
Several council members, like Amber Pollock, Kyle Gamroth, and Michael McIntosh, spoke about the possibility of a six-cent tax that could be voted on, like has been passed in Cheyenne, in order to fund a second ice sheet, though Knell said he was against any additional tax.
City manager Carter Napier said he could get back to the council with more information by the end of the year on a possible six-cent tax and other ways the city could fund another ice sheet.