Park and Rec Commission recommends fee hikes for 2014

NEW ULM – The New Ulm Park and Recreation Commission Monday recommended approval of a new fee schedule for 2014 to the City Council.

The Park and Rec department is seeking a “minimal increase” to keep fees affordable, said Park and Rec Director Tom Schmitz.

The department’s philosophy is to attempt to recoup costs where feasible, pass costs onto actual users, consider partially subsidizing youth, rather than adult, activities, and have regular small increases over few large ones, said Schmitz, in an overview.

In part, the commission recommended:

Increasing most rental space fees by 2 to 3 percent.

Adding a rental fee for the Harman Shelter consistent with meeting room fees.

Adding a tournament game fee for Johnson and Mueller parks because of additional costs associated with tournaments (additional custodial services and quick field turnaround time).

Changing the New Ulm Junior Baseball Association’s use fee of North Park from $2,800 to $3,200 as per a previous agreement.

Initiating a rental fee for the BMX Club of $200 per year.

Lowering the threshold number of annual hours needed for a three-tier volume discount on ice fees.

Increasing Civic Center daily admission by 25 cents for rounding and coin change purposes (which would affect punch cards) and leaving Rec Center admissions flat.

Modestly increasing fees for annual Civic and Rec Center memberships to keep up with equipment replacement costs.

This schedule projects no decline in expected revenues.

Report by Warshauer

On Schmitz’ request, Paul Warshauer, in his capacity of consultant with Grande Venues, Inc., made an informal assessment of performing arts spaces in town. (This assessment was done on a voluntary basis.)

Warshauer said New Ulm has an “enormous amount” of public spaces, of which the city should be proud.

Highlights of the report:

Warshauer noted the existing name confusion (New Ulm Civic Center, New Ulm Recreation Center and New Ulm Community Center).

Seniors use the Community Center more than any other group, he noted.

The common reference to it as the “senior” center can cause confusion for NUACT (a local actors group led by Warshauer), especially when they do youth-focused theater, he said.

Warshauer commended a German Park ampitheatre replacement feasibility study done by the Friends of German Park.

He suggested keeping seating open to provide a variety of options and the installation of electric outlets for sound and lights at three points.

Warshauer noted the city should not purchase lights or sound equipment but instead let outside groups bring their own.

He recommended handicapped seating on the top near area.

He suggested the possibility of making the bandstand a stage, using plexiglass and lighting, with removable panels.

Warshauer suggested that the Kiesling House could be a permanent greeting station, with living, historical impersonators.

This space is soon to be vacated by staff from the Grand, as renovation of the Grand is completed.

The Civic Center is an “amazing facility” with potential for concerts. Its use for concerts, however, would necessitate improvements in acoustics and removal of the giant glass in the section that is not always iced, Warshauer said.

Warshauer also reviewed the potential of open fields with field houses as venues for arts camps and vacation activities; German Park as a venue for Shakespeare or Comedy in the Park programs; collaborations with Martin Luther College, high schools, NUACT and other groups.

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