Staff at the Old Spanish Trail Arena are pleased and optimistic about cost savings and increased revenue at the facility, despite the facts that one longtime event sponsor has pulled out of the venue, and that a dry winter threatens to have a serious impact on this year’s budget.
Arena administrative assistant Belinda McKinney and OSTA Manager Steve Swift have both spoken recently to the Grand County Recreation Special Service District Board about developments at the facility during the last year.
“We’ve increased our revenue by over $10,000 in the first year I was there,” McKinney said during a report she gave to the board on Jan. 17. McKinney has been with OSTA since September 2016.
She added, “$10,000 doesn’t seem like a lot, but when we only charge $300 a day, every little space is getting used, and that’s what we want.”
Swift, on Tuesday this week, gave McKinney a lot of the credit for that. Usage of the arena has gone from about 60 events annually two years ago to 103 this year, though, he said, the new number might include “smaller” events that were there already but perhaps not being counted.
Still, though, “It’s increased steadily, but there’s been a significant jump since Belinda’s been here.”
To the board last month, McKinney said, “I’m really pushing for community events,” rather than only outside groups who come in for a couple days at a time.
But speaking of outside groups, both McKinney and Swift were not happy to report that the U.S. Team Roping Championships had taken Moab off its circuit after having been a perennial visitor to the arena for about a decade.
“They said it was too expensive to stay in Moab,” McKinney said. “Moab’s just getting to the point that it’s getting too expensive to stay. I’m really sad about that, because it was really a big deal.”
Swift acknowledged the loss. The two- or sometimes three-day event brought in about $3,000 to the arena, “and maybe 200 people,” he said — all of whom would spend their money at other local businesses during their stay.
But, “People don’t want to pay $200 to $300 a night,” for lodging.
Swift was careful to not make hotels out to be the bad guys, however.
“The hotel people are great people. They support us. We support them. There’s a symbiosis,” he said. “This is the first one who’s pulled out and cited that as a reason.”
Reporting further, McKinney and Swift said that by negotiating with Rocky Mountain Power, they received a $7,000 rebate credit on power bills and effectively lowered the amount of future bills.
“That is so good to have that money back, because we were worried about our budget,” McKinney said.
Changing to LED lights in the indoor arena during recent necessary replacements — at a cost of $63,000 — should yield a savings of about $6,000 per year, Swift said. “They’re supposed to have a life of 35 years, the way we use them.”
But what’s being saved in power costs might be frittered away this summer on grounds-keeping, due to a dry winter.
“We’ve been trying to grow the grass … since 2013,” Swift said. There were obstacles to doing so.
But now, OSTA managers might be faced with the choice of letting it dry up and die, or else pay to keep it watered.
With water from Ken’s Lake, provided by the Grand County Water and Sewer Service Agency, Swift said the arena’s irrigation costs would normally be about $2,000 a year. But with water conditions as dire as they are, the arena might have to rely on culinary water for irrigation.
How would the cost be different?
“Oh, terrible,” Swift replied.
If the grounds were watered “perfectly,” it would cost about $5,000 a week, Swift estimated.
He thinks the amount of watering could be cut by half. “The grass is established and is pretty resilient,” he said. “We put such a lot of work into that.”