Charge? Mayor: Tourist sites in Jamestown should make visitors pay admissionThe Jamestown City Council debated funding sources and amounts for local tourism groups Tuesday, including the possibility of sites charging admission fees.
By: Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun
The Jamestown City Council debated funding sources and amounts for local tourism groups Tuesday, including the possibility of sites charging admission fees.
The discussion was prompted by the renewal of the Buffalo City Tourism Foundation contract, which will expire at the end of December.
“It seems like we’ve got a good system going. Why do we want to mess with it? We’ve got a group of people that are dedicated to tourism. We’ve got a funding mechanism,” said Councilman Charlie Kourajian.
The council’s Civic Center & Promotion Committee took no final action, but agreed that City Attorney Ken Dalsted should draw up a four-year BCTF agreement, with money allocated to the organization for two years.
That contract will be voted on at the next full City Council meeting in December.
Due to changes in case law, the city will make an enterprise agreement rather than the same type of contract it had been making with the BCTF. The agreement will be based on the current contract, with some adjustments. BCTF members will also no longer be appointed by the City Council.
Charging admission at local tourism sites came up as part of discussion regarding the BCTF budget.
“… I would like to see some sort of consideration for alternative revenue sources and I think that helps the sites become more independent as well,” said Mayor Katie Andersen. “If that means charging admissions for all of our sites, that would mean a lot of income.”
Charlie Tanata, the chairman of the Frontier Village Association, said that many years ago, Frontier Village charged 50 cents admission per car — and people turned around at the gate and left.
After the meeting, Tanata added he believed Frontier Village could see 40 percent fewer visitors if it started charging admission fees.
“I think you have to have an attraction that’s worth paying for,” Andersen said during the meeting, stating that BCTF and the tourism sites “cannot continue to be dependent on, particularly, the sales tax revenue.”
The sales tax revenue received by the BCTF amounts to $133,000 in operating funds and $75,000 for grant funds, which are distributed to other tourism sites, according to Andersen.
Another potential revenue source for the BCTF could be charging membership fees.
“We could run competition with the Chamber (of Commerce). I don’t know how that would go over,” said Nina Sneider, executive director of the BCTF. Then when people called to ask what hotel to stay at, the BCTF would only give the names of member hotels. “I don’t like that. I prefer not to do that.”
Councilman Steve Brubakken asked why the Civic Center wasn’t being held as accountable as the BCTF with regard to its funding.
“If we’re not filling the Civic Center with events, we should be having a similar contract with the Civic Center,” Brubakken said. “We have not had serious discussions with them for eight months, and yet we took the Civic Center’s agreement and to me, that’s not appropriate.”
Andersen pointed out that the Civic Center is a department of the city rather than a private organization like the BCTF.
Alden Kollman, president-elect of the BCTF, said the group would be willing to continue exploring alternate revenue streams, but said the other tourism entities that receive money from the BCTF could potentially refuse to charge admission.
“It seems pretty simple to me. Charge admission or don’t get your staffing grant,” Andersen said.
Councilman Dan Buchanan wondered if the National Buffalo Museum should continue receiving BCTF grants, given that it already charges admission, sells items at its gift shop and has fundraisers each year.
Kollman said the museum is a nonprofit organization and is not accumulating funds.
He said BCTF will continue making progress to generating extra revenue sources, perhaps through memberships to the BCTF.
Andersen said she is trying to make the best use of taxpayer dollars.
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453
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