A long-planned 50 cent fee on tickets to Tacoma Rainiers games will start hitting fans in the 2012 season, a year after the renovated Cheney Stadium opened for baseball.
After City Council members questioned why it wasn’t in effect for the 2011 season, city officials notified the Rainiers Saturday it would charge the so-called facility fee starting in 2012 for baseball games — and starting Monday for other ticketed events.
Proceeds will go first to helping pay off the $30 million the city borrowed to renovate the stadium. Once debt payments are covered each year, leftover proceeds will be returned to the team for future maintenance.
“I wish they had done it last year, because it would have been good to have been collecting that fee,” said Councilman Marty Campbell. “I am happy to see that it is in place now and those who are enjoying the stadium are the ones that are paying for the stadium.”
Campbell said he had thought the fee was already being charged. The Rainiers and the city had agreed in the lease the city may impose a fee of up to 50 cents — but city staff decided it wouldn’t be needed in the first year, based on advice from the Rainiers that taxes and other city revenue from the stadium should be enough to cover the scheduled bond repayment.
“Early indications were, those possibly were going to exceed their expectations,” city Finance Director Bob Biles said. “There was a feeling that based on that, let’s wait and see.”
Instead, the latest projections show revenue falling $35,542 short of covering the repayment. With no fee to cover that gap, the city will reach into another pot — interest earned on money for the project. The borrowed money was invested during construction and earned interest.
A team spokeswoman said Rainiers President Aaron Artman is out of town this week and not available to talk about the decision last year or the effects of the fee next year. He hadn’t yet seen the city’s notification about next year’s fee, spokeswoman Alyson Jones said.
The gap next year is expected to be more than $72,000, which will be covered by the new facilities fee. The city has estimated it would raise $220,000 a year from the fee, with most going back to the team for maintenance.
At a council meeting last month, Councilman Jake Fey inquired if the facilities fee was being charged. Not yet, City Manager Rey Arellano told him.
“We have an obligation to the public to be able to pay off those bonds,” Fey said.