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Parking at Memorial Coliseum to cost more starting Sept. 1

Officials: New health care law partly responsible for increase

Thursday, June 20, 2013 - 7:41 am

Most Memorial Coliseum customers will pay more for parking starting Sept. 1.

In part to cover anticipated costs associated with the federal Affordable Care Act, coliseum trustees Wednesday agreed to increase the cost of regular parking at the county-owned facility from $4 to $5, with parking costs for recreational vehicles and other large vehicles increasing from $12 to $15. The charge for “preferred parking” will remain $8, and based on current volume the increases would generate about $300,000 per year.

That's important, coliseum officials said, because health care costs for the

building's 22 full-time employees are expected to increase when health care reform takes full effect next year. At least three other employees now considered part time may also qualify for coverage, further increasing costs. Coliseum parking fees last increased in 2006, and even with the changes will remain competitive with most comparable facilities in the region, which often charge between $5 and $20 for parking, according to Chief Financial Officer C.J. Steigmeyer.

General Manager Randy Brown told the board Wednesday that the coliseum's net 2012 income of $46,000 would be “difficult to maintain” because of the unknown cost of the health care act and recent decreased attendance for some of the coliseum's major tenants.

Attendance for the Komets hockey team, for example, dropped by 57,570, or 22.6 percent, during the most recent season, which Brown attributed to failure to make the ECHL playoffs and an increase in ticket prices. Attendance for the Mad Ants and IPFW basketball teams also decreased, with IPFW opting to play most of its home games on campus next season. Total attendance at coliseum events between January and May decreased by 2.8 percent to 576,656, Brown said, although the estimated economic impact of those events increased by nearly 11 percent, to $74.15 million.

Higher ticket prices for the Komets do not generate more revenue for the coliseum, which earns its income from games through parking and concessions. As a result, the decreased attendance lowered coliseum revenues by about $500,000, Brown said. The Komets paid about $9,000 in rent last season.

“The future has a lot of (financial) unknowns, and we need to address it,” Steigmeyer said, noting that the cost of employee health care and utilities have each increased by about $75,000 in the past two years.

Meanwhile, the main arena will be closed until Oct. 1 to allow completion of nearly $4 million in renovations. Eight of 12 main-level restrooms will be improved, and two large food courts on the main level will be installed, increasing the width of the corridor in places from 25 to 100 feet. The new food courts will offer cuisines, including freshly made hamburgers, pizza and Asian fare, and are expected to be complete by Oct. 1. The remaining main-level restrooms and those on the lower level are expected to be upgraded next year, at a cost of about $2 million.

The coliseum is also spending nearly $190,000 to upgrade the hockey dasher boards and glass and nearly $11,000 to improve its basketball floor.

The coliseum had considered increasing its parking fees last year but didn't, Brown said, in part because of the increase in the cost of Komets tickets. “We held off as long as we could,” he said.