Eagle County contemplates rental hikes at fairgrounds facilities | VailDaily.com

Eagle County contemplates rental hikes at fairgrounds facilities

Eagle River Center, exhibition hall and rodeo grandstands all need subsidy, but county wants to maximize cost recovery

The Western Colorado Outdoor and Sportsman's Expo is one of the large annual events held at the Eagle River Center.
Daily file photo

EAGLE — Ever since it opened in 2006, the Eagle River Center at the Eagle County Fairgrounds has been a mixed bag facility

On the positive side, at 45,000 square feet with a capacity of 3,000 people, there is no comparable local facility like the center. During the Eagle County Fair & Rodeo, all the 4-H animal exhibits, the show ring, and other fair displays fit under its roof. Large regional events, such as the Western Colorado Outdoors and Sportsman’s Expo, are staged at the site and local groups rent it out for special events or occasions. County equestrians use the center for an indoor riding program that has seen increased popularity.

On the negative side, even though the county charges rent for groups that use the Eagle River Center, the facility is still a subsidized operation.

Last week, the county commissioners took a look at increasing the rental rates for all the fairgrounds facilities — the Eagle River Center, the Exhibition Hall and the rodeo grandstands.

According to Eagle County Facilities Manager Jan Miller, having to subsidize a fairgrounds operation is common.

“When we compare our cost recovery to other fairgrounds, we are right in the ballpark,” Miller said. “We are also making some gains.”

Miller noted that the cost recovery for the overall fairgrounds facilities was 33% in 2018 and is projected to be 35% in 2019.

“Historically, facilities like this don’t make money,” said Eagle County Facilities Director Rick Ullom. However, he noted the county would like to get that subsidy down to around 40%.

Popular spot

The Eagle River Center has become a very popular venue, Miller noted. But there are challenges that result from that growing demand.

The Eagle River Center has a dirt floor, which is great for indoor riding or the county fair event, but not suitable for special events. The county has temporary flooring for the center than can be laid down for special events.

“It costs approximately $750 each time we have to turn the floor and we are turning it a lot more often than we used to,” Miller said.

Additionally, she noted that a new $110,000 flooring system was purchased six years ago but the more often the floor is laid down and taken up, the more wear and tear it endures. Miller said she is looking at other options but a new floor for the center will be a major investment.

To address both the operations subsidy and upcoming floor replacement needs, Miller introduced a proposed new rental rate schedule for the Eagle River Center, as well as the other county facilities. The proposal would generally increase rental amounts to $100 each across various categories.

While the Eagle County Commissioners weren’t opposed to increasing the rates or the 40% cost recovery goal, they did ask the facilities team to tweak the numbers. Specifically, Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney said residents should get a break because by paying property taxes and local sales taxes, they are helping subsidize the facility

“Think a bigger difference between resident and non-resident charges is warranted because we need to recognize that the resident has already contributed and the non-resident hasn’t,” McQueeney said.

The facilities team agreed to rework their numbers to get to the same bottom-line revenue and lessen the costs for resident rentals. The new numbers will then get a second review from the commissioners.