Larimer commissioners like proposed Bud Center paid-parking model

FORT COLLINS — A proposed paid-parking model for the Budweiser Events Center got a positive reception from Larimer County commissioners on Monday, sending the staff of the county-owned Ranch Events Complex in Loveland and its operating partners back for fine-tuning before submitting a final draft for approval this summer.

The plan, which would take effect in August after the Larimer County Fair and PRCA rodeo if commissioners give the final nod, would set card-only drive-up parking fees at $15 for concerts, $10 for hockey games and “dirt” events such as rodeos, and $5 for other community events. Base prepaid fees would be $10 for concerts, $6 for hockey and dirt events and $5 for community events — but with a 13% service fee.

Fees would not be charged for county fair and 4-H events.

Conor McGrath, director of the 7,200-seat event center, and Keller Taylor, regional vice president and general manager of Los Angeles-based center operator Oak View Group, told commissioners that advances in technology, such as online booking and payment methods using smartphones, would probably lead to 70% of the fees being pre-paid within a few months.

McGrath and Taylor projected that the fees would generate at least $1.2 million in annual gross revenue, which would help The Ranch meet its required goal of being self-sustaining by 2039. They said the revenue could be applied to traffic and parking operations as well as ongoing maintenance and the complex’s security infrastructure.

The events center also is due a revenue infusion of $7.5 million over the next 20 years because of a naming-rights deal with Cheyenne-based Blue Federal Credit Union. Approved by the county in January, the pact will change the name of the facility from the Budweiser Events Center to Blue Arena beginning this fall.

The public paid cash to park when the events center opened in 2003, but fees were abolished before the 2015-16 Colorado Eagles minor-league hockey season because the former Arena Circle struggled at times to handle a large influx of people efficiently. In return for that free-parking model, the Eagles were charged a per-person attendance fee of $2.

McGrath and Taylor said the fees could lead more attendees to carpool to Bud Center events, thus reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. They acknowledged that the fees would represent a change for attendees, initially resulting in some slowdowns in entry as they adjust, but that advancements in technology would enable the operation to be more efficient if managed well and could aid prepaid parkers with wayfinding.

They also acknowledged that reinstituting fees might lead attendees to try to park in neighboring lots that don’t charge for parking.

Sales-and-use tax dollars have supported The Ranch since its conception.

“Basically everyone is charging for parking” among American Hockey League franchises, Taylor said, but added that the proposed fees for Eagles fans would fall on the “low end.”

Proponents of the plan intend to keep working on their analysis to make sure the paid-parking model can be implemented seamlessly, and to continue to work with third-party vendors to provide the most appropriate technology. They’ll report back to commissioners in June or July for final approval.

Source: BizWest

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