Gazette opinion: Raising beer prices at MetraPark the first step in the right direction

2014-04-07T00:00:00Z 2014-04-08T12:25:05Z Gazette opinion: Raising beer prices at MetraPark the first step in the right direction The Billings Gazette
April 07, 2014 12:00 am

As much as no one likes the idea of the price of beer getting more expensive, this might be one case where not as many people will mind.

The Yellowstone County Commissioners approved raising the price of suds $1 at the Metra. Some of the increase would go to fund better entertainment, something that the community wants.

It would seem to be a winning proposal.

This may be the first step toward getting better entertainment at the Metra. And if it is, there probably will be few who will mind an extra buck.

We also find Commissioner Jim Reno's concern about raising beer prices sadly amusing. Reno cast the lone vote against the proposal and in doing so, said he worried about what the pricing would do to families. But, it's not like folks take the kids to the Metra to get them a six pack.

However, this proposal has the potential to backfire spectacularly. We hope both the county commissioners and the Metra folks realize this.

If the beer prices spike and it's just another rehashing of the Band Perry, or we upgrade from Leroy Van Dyke to Charley Pride, then it's a waste of money.

If beer prices go up and the entertainment doesn't take a substantial leap forward then folks will remember the county commissioners raised the price of beer under the guise of better entertainment.

Let's face it: Regardless of the price of beer, the Metra and the commissioners should be worried about the anemic offerings at the venue. They should be concerned because we're losing acts and plenty of revenue dollars for retailers, merchants and the travel industry. It's not that the commission or Metra has to ensure that the retail and travel sector are thriving, but the way they've managed this county resource hasn't been to utilize it like the taxpayer-owned resource it is.

For far too long there's been little incentive for the county to bring in better entertainment. In other words, there was no consequence for letting the facility sit vacant. There only seemed to be a consequence if the Metra should have a show that failed. So safe acts, like Mannheim Steamroller, got booked again. And again. And, you get the picture.

Instead, the decision to raise the price of beer may be the best move the commissioner have ever made because you can bet that something as memorable as hiking the price of booze will grab people's attention. And that means people will not likely forget that the commission pledged to bring better entertainment to the Metra.

Importantly, the commission last week also gave MetraPark management authority over concession pricing. Bill Kennedy offered an amendment to the beer price hike motion that will let management set all concessions prices. He and John Ostlund voted for that.

This is a significant step toward letting the professional management manage Metra.

This might help prove the staff is up to making the Metra a top-notch enterprise for the county, without the commission babysitting it.

We might also add one side benefit of raising the price of beer. The proceeds support local Exchange Clubs. Increasing the price of beer will help these organizations do even more.

But remember, these organizations don't make money for the community unless they can actually operate concessions. And they can't operate concessions when the facility sits vacant or there are shows that no one wants to see.

The commission has made an important first step. Let's just make sure the path leads to better entertainment.

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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