County to consider beer price increase at MetraPark

2014-03-31T17:30:00Z 2014-04-01T10:40:08Z County to consider beer price increase at MetraParkBy CLAIR JOHNSON cjohnson@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

The cost of a beer at MetraPark could increase by $1 to help attract more entertainment under a proposal offered by MetraPark’s advisory board.

Yellowstone County commissioners will vote on the idea during its Tuesday board meeting. Commissioners John Ostlund and Bill Kennedy said they back the plan during their discussion meeting on Monday, but Reno remained mum.

The proposal would do several things, said Brian Cebull, chair of the advisory board.

Half the $1 increase would go into a new, co-promotions fund that would be used to help pay for “bigger names and bigger acts” at MetraPark, Cebull said. The co-promotions fund is a way to “serve the public’s demand” for more entertainment, he said.

Metra’s contracts

The remaining 50 cents would be allocated under the terms of MetraPark’s contracts with its beer vendors — the Breakfast Exchange Club, which sells beer in the Rimrock Auto Arena, and the Downtown Exchange Club, which sells beer at the grandstands. Under the contract, MetraPark gets 30 percent of the beer sales.

Currently, MetraPark charges $4 for a draft beer and $5 for an aluminum bottle of beer.

With a $1 increase, MetraPark would get an additional 15 cents per beer for its operations, Cebull said.

The increase also would help the service clubs, whose vending expenses have increased 28 percent since 2008, when MetraPark last increased the price of beer.

To kick-off the co-promotion fund, the Breakfast Exchange Club will contribute $5,000, said Dave Staton, past president of the club and newly-appointed advisory board member.

All of the Breakfast Exchange’s beer proceeds go toward service projects and child abuse prevention in the community, Station said.

“We don’t want to lose dollars,” Cebull said. But the co-promotion fund would allow MetraPark to risk some money in an effort to attract better entertainment.

The commissioners recently agreed to allow MetraPark to try co-promoting shows in which the county would share the financial risk of an event along with an outside promoter. Previously, MetraPark would rent its facilities to promoters, who took all the financial risk.

Mixed results

MetraPark, which gets 39 percent of its budget from property taxes, has co-promoted events in the past with mixed results.

MetraPark is in better financial shape than it was a decade ago and it has a better arena because of improvements made following damage from the 2010 tornado.

Using beer sales for the past three years ending in 2013, Cebull said the proposal would have generated $132,536 in revenue for the co-promotion fund, plus the $5,000 from the Breakfast Exchange Club, for a total of $137,536.

MetraPark also would have generated another $39,761 from its 30 percent cut of beer proceeds for its operations.

The advisory board also surveyed regional arenas and found that beer prices ranged from $5 at the Rushmore Plaza in Rapid City, S.D., to $6 at the Bismarck Civic Center in North Dakota.

How the co-promotion fund would be managed has not been determined but Cebull said the concept would be for MetraPark’s management to work with the advisory board and exchange clubs.

The idea has support of MetraPark’s staff. “I’m in. I think it’s good,” said Bill Dutcher, the general manager. “It opens up the grandstands to more possibilities,” he said.

Commissioners Ostlund and Kennedy also indicated support. Ostlund said the idea would help MetraPark respond to public demands for more events while helping the clubs with increasing costs. “The fund opens all kinds of doors,” he said.

Kennedy said he would like to give MetraPark management the ability to make decisions on which risks to take.

Reno said he would announce his position during the board meeting. In 2012, Reno opposed charging $5 for 16-ounce aluminum bottles calling it excessive. The bottles are sold at portable stations and have cut the wait time for the cheaper draft beers.

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