Cashman Center’s rates going up Jan. 1

The board of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority on Tuesday approved an increase in rental rates and parking fees at Cashman Center.

Authority President and Chief Executive Officer Rossi Ralenkotter testified at the board’s monthly meeting that the move would reduce Cashman’s annual operating loss from $4.5 million to $3 million. He also said authority officials hope Cashman will eventually generate cash for a capital fund to finance repairs at the 26-year-old center.

The increases will take effect Jan. 1. Daily fees to rent Cashman Center will rise from $3,000 to $4,000 for public events such as craft fairs, and from $6,130 to $7,110 for trade shows. Parking costs will go from $3 to $4.

It’s the first time since 2002 that the authority has increased rent rates at Cashman, and the first time since 1998 that it’s increased parking fees.

Two directors questioned the proposal before the board voted on the measure.

Kara Kelley, who is president and chief executive officer of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, said she’s concerned about such large price increases amid a recession. The public-event rental rate and the parking fees will each jump 33 percent, she said. And the trade-show rate, which the chamber pays when it holds its June business expo at Cashman, will go up nearly 16 percent.

“This is coming at an awfully terrible economic time,” Kelley said. “I understand the significance of Cashman being self-supporting, but I can’t support these increases.”

Kelley suggested that the board consider smaller price boosts every year or two rather than leaving rates stable for nearly a decade and then levying big increases all at once.

And County Commissioner Lawrence Weekly, who represents the neighborhood around Cashman’s North Las Vegas Boulevard address, said he worried higher rental fees could price local nonprofits out of Cashman. That would hurt already-struggling groups that provide programs and services for needy kids, he said.

Chris Meyer, vice president of sales for the authority, said Cashman has booked more than 100 events in 2010, and just one show organizer has complained about the increases.

That promoter, Steve Powers, told the Review-Journal on Friday that he feared the parking increase would curb business at his Great Craft Festival. Similar fee increases at the Reno Convention Center cut his traffic in half, he said, and he canceled the show there in 2007 as a result.

But Ralenkotter said Cashman overall remains more affordable than most other venues in town. Plus, visitor volume at Cashman didn’t fall when parking costs went from $2 to $3 in 1998, Ralenkotter noted.

The measure passed 11-1, with Kelley casting the “no” vote.

In other authority news:

The authority released its annual report for fiscal 2009 Tuesday. The agency brought in $176.7 million in room tax revenue in the year that ended June 30. That was $47 million, or 21 percent, below budget forecasts. Revenue from rentals of authority facilities, including the Las Vegas Convention Center, were $41.5 million, or about $4 million below expectations. Still, thanks to cost-cutting, the authority’s general fund ended the fiscal year in positive territory, with $18.5 million on hand.

Authority officials said they’re already preparing for another down year in fiscal 2010.

Year-over-year declines in room tax revenue surpassed 20 percent in the first few months of fiscal 2010, which began in July, so the authority now expects an 18.5 percent drop in room tax income, from $177 million in 2009 to $144 million in 2010.

The agency suggested covering the shortfall in a variety of ways, including $4.2 million in departmental budget cuts, $1.3 million through a voluntary-separation program and $4.5 million in cash-flow adjustments from bonds through the Nevada Department of Transportation. The authority also suggested eliminating $8 million in reserves in its master-plan enhancement program, and paring $7 million from the budget by delaying advertising-buy commitments for the first half of calendar 2010. Operational changes such as canceling graveyard shifts, instituting unpaid time off and freezing hiring will save $1 million in the year.

Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at jrobison @reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4512.

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